One-on-One with Delonte West

On the floor, Delonte West is the exact opposite of the man who reporters can’t wait to talk to. Between the lines, West is solid and steady. He’s the model of consistency. Off the court, the 25-year-old West is an aspiring artist and poet. And he’s prone to say just about anything – (and usually does) – whether it makes sense to the rest of us or not.

But don’t be fooled by his sometimes-silly demeanor away from basketball. His NBA opponents aren’t. They know that Delonte West is a fiercely competitive foe – a rock-solid defender with deft handle who can stick the three-pointer as well as dunk one in their grill.

The fifth-year pro, part of the 11-player deal last February, started all 26 games for the Cavaliers after his arrival. He averaged 10.3 ppg down the stretch and 10.8 ppg in the postseason. He was instrumental in the Wine and Gold’s playoff run that saw them get within one game of knocking off his former club.

West was the final piece of the Cavaliers off-season puzzle when he inked a contract just before Training Camp. He joins Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson at the point, giving Cleveland a troika of guards who can break down opponents in a variety of ways.

The former St. Joe’s star sat down with to talk about his backcourt mates, an offseason without cable TV and the rumor about playing in Russia.

You joined the Cavaliers in February last year and got only 26 starts with the club. How important is it to be here for Training Camp?
Delonte West: Well, now you get an opportunity to get in the trenches, in the blood and sweat with your team. Last year, I kind of came in midway through and I just tried to fit in and tried not to step on too many toes.

But now you have to earn your keep. And that’s what I love most about this game. You get to get in the trenches and show your team what you’re all about, your work ethic. And that develops trust and camaraderie.

What parts of your game did you work on in the off-season?
West: I can’t give you all the goods. I can’t give you all the secrets, man. You never know who’s watching and listening.

Actually, I continued to try to improve upon my weaknesses and sharpen up what I do well. The things you do well are what got you to this point, so you try not to get too far away from that. But you have to keep getting better and overcome your weaknesses.

Were you concerned when the Cavaliers dealt for Mo Williams midway through the summer?
West: Not at all. Whoever is making the decisions on making this team a championship team is definitely taking the right steps.

I think Mo – over the course of his career – is a player similar to myself, who hasn’t gotten a ton of notoriety. But he brings it. And no one can question his work ethic or his desire to win. A lot of his early years in Milwaukee were similar to my first years in Boston, with both teams rebuilding. You could tell he never had an attitude about it on the floor; he just brought it every night. And he happens to be a friend of mine.

So that being said, getting him was a great pickup. A great pickup.

Was there anything to the rumor that you were considering playing in Russia?
West: Well I read that on the Internet just like you did. The Internet’s real interesting. I call the Internet “The Devil.” The Internet and cable television are the Devil. They’re just a way to influence others with color schemes and all kinds of stuff.

That’s said jokingly, but honestly, I read it just like you did. My agent never told me anything about Russia. That might have been a 14-year-old basketball fanatic who wrote that. He might have wrote that in his basement and next thing you now, (the media)’s running with it. I actually didn’t pay much attention to it.

Could you see yourself playing in Russia?
West: Not with all these tattoos I got. I’d be the first one to go. I know some Russians be shooting at me. I got a Chinese symbol over here, I got a Muslim symbol right here. So I’d look like a terrorist over there.

I don’t think I’m going nowhere overseas looking like this.

What did you do with your off-season off the court?
West: I got back to my roots, man. I stayed in my mom’s basement – in my old room – with a 19” TV.

No cable?
West: Like I just said, cable TV is the Devil. So I watched Sponge Bob tapes over and over again. I went to the same courts I used to work out at. I just got back to my roots, man. I didn’t do too much “live” basketball, for obvious reasons.

Does losing the Boston series last spring still bother you?
West: Well, I have it in my front pocket right now. Every time I reach in to get a dollar out I see the Boston series right in my hand. I try to stuff it back in my pocket so I don’t see it. But I can’t let that go.

Coming from that team, where everything just snowballed and went down hill – we were the laughingstock of the league and the very next year they get a Championship. And I felt that I had put in a lot of groundwork with that team; that should have been my reward.

But the Lord works in mysterious ways. And out of all the chaos, and what I thought was a punishment, turned out to be one of the biggest blessings of my life – being here in Cleveland and getting a contract that will let me take care of my family the way I want to. I can now relax and really devote myself and my skills to an organization that’s doing the same thing for me.

Talking to Danny Ferry and yourself, it seems like you were meant to be here in Cleveland.
West: Well, first and foremost, I’m a Maryland guy. And us Maryland guys stick together. It’s a secret society we got goin’ on.

It just seemed like the stars were almost aligned for me to come here. I guess it starts with Mike Malone and him being the only – I don’t want to say the “only” because St. Joe’s is pretty heavy – but everything was pointing for me to go to Manhattan College because of Coach Malone. Not for any other reason, but just for me to be around him and help my game out.

But I prayed over that and I think the Lord got in my footsteps. And now I’m here, in Cleveland. And I have a beard.

You were the starter in the final 26 games of the season, but now it’s a pretty crowded position. How does that make you feel?
West: This team, this organization – you can tell it’s about winning. And that’s what I’ve been about my whole career. I’ve never been a big production guy – I’ve averaged maybe 10, 11 points – but I do that consciously.

I understand as a player and as a point guard that there’s more than one guy on the floor and everyone has a role to play. I can go out and shoot four or five more times a game and get my point average up to 14, 15 points a game, but someone’s going to be mad at the end of the game. I might be happy, but someone’s going to be mad.

What I’ve always been about is camaraderie and playing to win. And that’s why I think I fit in here well.