The Celtics have had a plethora of lovable role players in recent years. From Walter McCarty to Mickael Pietrus, Eddie House and Leon Powe — the C's have had no shortage of reserves who have captivated the fan base. Delonte West was no different.
West, a Celtics 1st round pick in 2004, played with the team from '04-'07 before being traded in the Ray Allen deal, and then returned for an injury plagued 2010-11 season with the team. His signature look, all out style of play and sometimes bizarre off the court antics made him a fan favorite, and someone that many people would love to see return to Boston for a 3rd go round with the team.
However, it's not that simple. Delonte did not play in the NBA last season after being cut by the Mavericks for disciplinary reasons in late October, just the latest in a long line of off court issues for the guard who suffers from bipolar disorder.
Of course the biggest issue of all took place in 2009, when West, then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was arrested for carrying three loaded guns while driving down the highway in Maryland. That gun charge, plus several other behavioral issues has made West an NBA pariah, a 30 year old who looks to be in danger of never getting another shot.
For West, that's devastating. The eight year NBA veteran opened up to SLAM magazine (link), saying that he feels that the media has treated him harshly, while recognizing that his past mistakes haunt him.
“Reporters can’t write a sentence—they can’t write a sentence about even a good game—without mentioning something from four years ago,” says West. “There are plenty of players arrested for DUIs, gun charges, this and that. [Meanwhile], they’ve made me into the Terminator.”
It bothers West because he believes coverage of the story has led, at least indirectly, to his 2010 exit from Cleveland, ’11 exit from Boston and ’12 exit from Dallas. It bothers him because he believes it’s hindered his ability to provide for his family. But most of all, it bothers him because it’s compromised his only haven.
“My whole life the court is the one place where people couldn’t laugh at my skin complexion, or the birthmark on my face or the red hair,” says West in a calm voice. “When I played basketball, because I worked so hard, it’s always been the one place where people couldn’t laugh at me.
“All of a sudden the laughter is now coming from the mainstream,” continues West. “Everywhere I look, the joke is on me.”
He offers an example: “My son is due in a week,” begins West, a long-time father figure and financial caregiver to a large swathe of his extended family. “Everybody I know wants me to name my son Delonte Jr. I’m not, though. In today’s world, my son doesn’t need to go to school and get laughed at because of things his father did.”
While West admits to making mistakes, I'm sure that NBA teams would like to see him take a little more responsibility for his actions if he is indeed serious about a comeback. While the media is consistently guilty of over-exaggeration, being caught with three loaded guns, including a shotgun in a guitar case, is no minor charge.
However, if Delonte really is on the straight and narrow, there is little doubt that he could help a team. He's the perfect backup combo guard when healthy. An adept three point shooter who can get to the basket, possesses a high basketball IQ and above average defensive capabilities, he could jump into the rotation of several potential contenders and give them a spark.
The question remains, is his off court trouble behind him? If so, he's worth the risk. If not, teams are better off with less talented, less troubled options.
One thing is for sure though, West is desperate for a shot.
“I watched the NBA all last year,” says West. “What I ended up saying to myself is, Let me stop playing around; let me get back on the path that I was on; let me get into my groove.”
He also points out, taking an optimistic stance, that last season—which saw him play eight games, all as a member of the Texas Legends of the D-League—and the previous injury-riddled two have served to preserve his youth.
“My body is that of a guy who is 24 or 25,” West, who turns 30 on July 26, says seriously. “I think I can play this game 10 more years.”
Not just play this game, he corrects, but play it at a higher level than ever before.
“What I’m excited about is that I haven’t even scratched my prime,” says West. “Just give me a jersey.”
Give him a jersey and he’ll give you everything he’s got. After all, he’ll be playing for his name, for his namesake and for love.
“Basketball is all I’ve ever had,” offers West. “I won’t give the media any more excuses.”
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 7/22/2013 01:23:00 PM Tweet