West Working Hard on Road to Redemption
NEWPORT, R.I. -- After everyone else had wrapped up their post-practice interviews and taken the bus back to the team hotel on Wednesday, Delonte West worked with the Celtics coaching staff on his pull-up jumpers, 3-pointers and then ran a few sprints.
Soaked in sweat from his 30-minute-plus extra workout, a contrite West met with about a half-dozen reporters who waited for him to finish his drills. Despite being asked a straight basketball question, West wasted no time in addressing his offseason, off-the-court issues and expressing his gratitude for his second chance with the Celtics at training camp in Newport, RI. Offseason legal woes will cost West the first 10 games of the season due to a league-imposed suspension.
Delonte West is back in Boston looking to resume his career and put off-the-court troubles behind him.
"I'm just happy to be given this opportunity to do what I love," West said. "I'm lucky to be here, happy to be here. Put me out there... I'm playing every game, every minute this year like my life depends on it, because it does... my career, nothing's promised."
"I'm excited to get this opportunity to prove to the NBA, to the world, that I'm a good person. I have a lot to prove and I don't want to let anybody down," West said, noting that he's upset because he's not in the shape that he thought he was in.
When it was suggested to him by one of the reporters huddled around him that he was putting a lot of pressure on himself, West was quick to disagree.
"Pressure comes when you're unprepared. Confidence comes from repetition," West said. "That's what I'm doing here. That's why I'm in here. I'm getting prepared for no letdown this year."
West started his NBA career with the Celtics as the 24th pick in the 2004 draft, and the left-hander persevered through an injury-riddled rookie campaign to be named the starting point guard for the 2005-06 season, where he shot a career-best 48.7 percent from the field. His aggressive, borderline-reckless style of play earned him plenty of respect both inside and outside of the Celtics' locker room, and at the time West was viewed as part of the future core of a young Celtics team shepherded by Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce.
But when the opportunity to acquire Ray Allen arose and the Celtics needed to make a deal, West was shipped West to Seattle along with Wally Szczerbiak and the fifth overall pick in the draft night deal that landed Allen and the selection that would become Glen Davis.
Rivers says West has matured on the court in the past three years since he was last wearing Celtics green, and attributed much of that to playing in big games and playing alongside superstars like LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland.
"The coaches, we've all been talking about the maturity in his game. He's not fighting things, he rarely does too much," Rivers said. "He's matured and he's played with a great player, he's learned to be a role player from playing with LeBron, and I think that helps you for the rest of your career."
"He ran ‘slice' better than guys who were here. Today I thought he was the best guy," Rivers said, noting that the Cavaliers ran many of the same sets as the Celtics last season.
O'Neal, who will again play alongside West in the newly named "Boston Bench Mob" called West a "fabulous" player who understands the game. And familiarity with the Celtics system is making for an easy re-integration into the team for West.
Despite a three-year absence, West, for his part, still felt a kinship with his former teammates, texting them and feeling like he was a part of what the team would eventually accomplish in the spring of '08, as the Celtics won their 17th World Championship.
"In some ways, it was like he [never left] because he was still pretty close with some of our guys," Rivers said.
Even so, West says that missing the first 10 games of the season – including Opening Night against the Miami Heat -- will be tough on him as he looks to re-establish himself with the Celtics.
"All eyes are going to be on that game. And every game after that," West said of his suspension. "I want to be there with the team for the first game of the season, the pre-game speech Doc is gonna give, the camaraderie in the locker room. I'm gonna miss all of that."
"In reality, 10 games in the NBA is two weeks. But I'm gonna miss all those things. Being in the first huddle. Taking the floor for the first time with your teammates, going into battle. I'm gonna miss that. So to those young kids out there, that's what happens when you make bad decisions."
West seems to have learned his lesson, and certainly appears to be on a mission to get his career back in order with the team where it all started.