Waiting for Green Light, West Itching To Play

By Peter F. Stringer
October 4, 2006

WALTHAM - Delonte West has a reputation.

So his coaches are watching him closely, because when he's returning from injury, West always wants to get back on the floor as soon as possible. West reports that he hurt his back playing basketball in the offseason, probably because he didn't stretch properly.

West claims that he's ahead of schedule with his progress, and is aiming to return to practice on Sunday. Coach Doc Rivers said he hadn't heard any potential return dates yet from the team's medical staff, but despite not knowing exactly when West will be back in action, Rivers isn't too worried about his point guard's health right now.

"Not yet," said Rivers after practice on Wednesday. "I'm always concerned with any injury, and any back injury, but I think he's going to be fine."

West contends that he's ready to go, but understands why he's being held back. He spent much of Wednesday's workout on the sideline sitting on a ball watching his teammates run through pick-and-roll drills, and got up for the occasional light lay-up on a side basket.

"They're showing patience," said West. "Right now I'm cleared to do everything under the sun except full-contact. I'm getting my workouts in, getting my shots up, drill work and conditioning, but they want to give it a few more days until I get to bumpin' with the big guys. Hopefully I should be back in practice with contact on Sunday."

Paul Pierce certainly isn't concerned that West is missing much.

"I think he's doing a good job of keeping himself in shape," said Pierce. "He understands the system, he knows what Doc wants from him, so I think he'll be fine."

And while West hasn't been involved in camp physically, it didn't stop him from getting involved vocally. West addressed the team after Tuesday's practice.

"After the coaches addressed the team, Paul addressed the team and then I felt I wanted to say something. Nothing in particular, I was just speaking from the heart." said West. "We're a team and you should be able to talk to your teammates."

Rivers was pleased to hear his guard take a leadership role, but had a word of caution.

"To anyone who talks, and I tell them this all the time, it can't be a sometimes thing. If you're going to try to lead, you can't just lead when it's convenient. You've got to lead all of the time if you're going to take that mantle," said Rivers. "You've got to keep talking and keep being a leader, and Delonte does a good job of that."

As for the other Celtics who had minor injury tweaks yesterday, Ryan Gomes (strained left groin) and Sebastian Telfair (strained low back) were back on the floor today.

Numbers Game

It's tough to run a training camp with 18 players, because finding court time for everyone can be a challenge. And the numbers don't work out very well when you carry so many bigs. The Celtics are currently carrying seven players who are 6'10" or above, making front court reps hard to come by.

So the obvious question is, when will cuts happen?

"I don't know," said Rivers. "You've always got to worry about injuries. So we kind of want to keep that number for a while."

Mixed Reviews for New Game Ball

It's a slicker, brighter ball at first glance. That much is obvious. And while guys around the league are just getting used to the new game ball - count Miami's Shaquille O'Neal among those who hate the new ball - Pierce doesn't think it will affect his game.

Pierce said he a had few balls sent to him over the summer to get some time getting used to it, and the Celtics who were working out over the last few months played with the new balls during the Vegas Summer League and used them in their offseason workouts as well.

"I think the players are going to have to make an adjustment," said Pierce, who noted that the synthetic ball has a different grip than the traditional leather game balls the league has used in the past. "I've been playing with it all summer and at first you're kind of hesitant, you've been playing with [one ball] for so long, but that's the way it is and that's the way it's going to be. I've made the adjustment over the summer and I'm fine with it."

West certainly isn't worried about the new ball.

"I've played with balls covered in mud that didn't have air in them," said West. "If it's got air in it, and you've got a rim, you should be able to shoot a basketball."

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