With Suspension In the Past, West Puts In Work

BOSTON – Ten games may not feel like a whole lot to outsiders, but to Delonte West it was an eternity.

Three full weeks and more than 12 percent of the Boston Celtics’ regular season have passed by, but West has been only an observer for all of it. Due to a 10-game, league-mandated suspension that was handed down on him this summer, West’s role with the C’s had been reduced to that of a screaming fan watching their favorite team in HD. Literally.

“I found myself as a fan of the game, you know rooting for my guys, and cheering, and calling everyone to let them know, ‘The game is on, we’ve gotta watch the Celtics,’ “ West said Monday afternoon, joking that his neighbors banged on his wall because that cheering was so loud while he watched Boston’s first 10 games from home. “It’s great. It’s even better after I see those guys on TV, I sit and think to myself, you know, I’m a part of that.”

He’d be the first to admit that he hasn’t been a very big part of it to this point, but that’s all going to change as the rest of this season plays out. There will be no more talk of the suspension and how tough it has been to wait it out. The wait is now over. Come 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night when Boston plays host to the Washington Wizards, West won’t be cheering his team to victory from the sofa, he’ll be giving tangible contributions to a hopeful victory on the parquet floor at the TD Garden.

But before that game arrives, all West and his teammates can do is practice. He joined the team this afternoon for his first post-suspension practice, allowing him to finally go to work without that monumental burden hanging over his shoulders. And go to work he did.

After he and his teammates, who just returned from a daunting four-game road trip, enjoyed a light practice that only lasted about 75 minutes and featured limited contact, West held a second practice unto himself – for the most part – as everyone else made their way to the locker room.

He began his second practice with a 3-point shooting session that was accompanied by Nate Robinson and assistant coach Lawrence Frank. West and Robinson rotated through a number of deep balls and ran sprints up and down the court between each round of jumpers. But when Robinson’s extra work was done, after a good 15 minutes of shooting, West’s was just beginning.

About an hour and a half after the C’s had wrapped up practice, you could still find West working on his ball handling and one-on-one moves with Frank. During West’s personal practice, Robinson had already wrapped up a photoshoot with the Sporting News, three players and a coach had finished a five-game series of 2-on-2 ball, and Semih Erden had gone through numerous drills with assistant coach Roy Rogers. Still, West remained, looking to shake off as much rust as possible before he tests out his physical and mental endurance Wednesday night.

“I’m anxious to see how my conditioning is,” said West. “Of course, the weight room and out here is nothing like game simulation. You’ve just got to get out there and run up and down and get the flow of things.”

He’ll certainly be allowed to test that conditioning Wednesday night, but Doc Rivers isn’t quite sure as to how long that test will last.

“Yeah, I mean I don’t know,” Rivers said of West’s playing time, giving no indication of a targeted number of minutes. “He’ll play though. He’s just got to get all of our stuff down… so we’ll probably just limit what they run while he’s on the floor until he kind of gets integrated with what we’re doing.”

In addition to West catching onto the team’s schemes at both ends of the floor, Rivers has to be conscious of the possibility of sacrificing the team’s success by sending a new player into the regular rotation.

“(I have to) see what he knows without taking us out of rhythm and go from there. You never know,” said Rivers. “You can’t have a schedule for that because you may come in and get it pretty well and he may come in and mess the whole team up with their rhythm and you have to get him out. You’ve got to win the game still, but I think he’ll be OK.”

West’s work ethic and history with Rivers’ schemes will certainly play a role in this transition. Had he been a brand new signing who had never played under Rivers before, it could be a very difficult proposition to work him into the rotation 10 games into the season. But that’s far from the case. He knows Rivers, he knows the Celtics and he has a solid grasp of what this team wants and needs out of him.

“They’re not asking me to do anything I can’t do,” West said. “They’re not telling me to go out there and post up and get 30 rebounds. They’re just telling me to go play my game, and that’s the best feeling ever. They’re telling me that, ‘You being you is going to help this team out.’ “

There’s no doubt that West’s presence on the team will be a drastic help to the second unit. He’s a playmaker who will give Rivers numerous options in terms of rotations and matchups for the remainder of the season. West also provides a reliable veteran who works his tail off day-in and day-out to become a better player, as evidenced by today’s double-practice that lasted longer than most NBA games.

When that overtime work concluded, West spoke to the media about earning playing time, being committed and earning trust from his teammates during his road back into the rotation. He’s already well on his way to accomplishing all of those in his first day back, and that’s just Delonte being Delonte.