Delonte West hasn't played an NBA game since May 2012. (Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images)
When last we heard from Delonte West, the mercurial combo guard was "sitting at home and miss[ing] the game," and hoping that one of the NBA's 30 teams would give him a ring and another shot at proving his mettle as a backcourt contributor. More than two months later, the phone appears to have remained silent, leading the St. Joseph's product to look overseas for his next gig, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:
Free agent guard Delonte West has signed a one-year deal with Fujian Xunxing of China, a source informed CSNNW.com.
West, 30, will have the opportunity to latch onto an NBA team once the Chinese Basketball Association's season concludes in February.
The veteran was eager to prove to NBA teams that he was capable of taking a contending team to the next level. Though, no one was willing to offer a guaranteed deal to his liking. Playing in China will allow NBA personnel to observe his improvements on and off the court.
It will, of course, shock you to learn that I am not intimately familiar with the history and inner workings of Fujian Xunxing, which is apparently sponsored by a "zipper science" concern and which features the mighty sturgeon as its mascot. (Take that, folks who thought the pelican was insufficiently rough-and-tumble.)
West's journey to China puts him in the company of fellow ex-pats Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, J.R. Smith, Steve Francis, Gilbert Arenas, Kenyon Martin, Ivan Johnson, Wilson Chandler, Rafer Alston and (kinda-sorta) the immortal Luke Babbitt. Fujian Xunxing doesn't have quite the big-name pedigree of some of the Chinese Basketball Association's other squads, but has previously employed ex-NBA alumni like Sundiata Gaines, Jelani McCoy and Patrick O'Bryant, for what it's worth.
In the grand scheme of things, it's nice that West's going to be gainfully employed playing professional basketball this season, but this news will likely come as something of a bummer to the likes of NBA fans who've appreciated Delonte's unique blend of on-court talents, off-court honesty and, shall we say, unpredictability over the years. That said, it's also fairly unsurprising that he didn't wind up with any actionable offers from NBA teams given the way his last big-league stint shook out.
West didn't play a second of the 2012-13 NBA season following a series of disciplinary actions — an indefinite suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team," a full reinstatement just one day later and a second indefinite "conduct detrimental" suspension eight days after that — led the Dallas Mavericks to waive him only one day before the start of the season to create the roster space to sign center Eddy Curry.
He didn't draw much attention from other NBA teams after that; the Memphis Grizzlies reportedly had some interest in offering West a 10-day deal before the February trade deadline, but chose guard/forward Chris Johnson instead. West then turned his attention to joining the Texas Legends, the Mavericks' D-League affiliate, but altered his course after Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he wouldn't call West up to the NBA level. Eventually, though, West did report to the Legends in early March; he made eight fairly quiet appearances before the D-League season ended. No NBA teams called after that. Apparently, they still haven't, so Delonte's getting his John Denver/Peter, Paul and Mary on.
West's situation, of course, is somewhat complicated by a checkered past that includes a 2009 arrest for operating a motorcycle with a heavy-duty arsenal, on-court disciplinary issues like sticking his finger in Gordon Hayward's ear and laughing off his subsequent fine), and his struggles with bipolar disorder. West has claimed that media reporting on him — specifically the gun arrest and the bipolar issue — has unfairly sullied his reputation around the league and affected the likelihood of his catching on with a team. That may or may not be true; whether due to the facts of his case or the popular portrayal of them, 30 NBA teams seem to have, at this point, decided that the eight-year veteran's gifts aren't worth the prospective headache that might accompany them.
That being said, as Haynes notes, the coming CBA season offers West an opportunity to show front-office executives that his skills are sharp, that he's capable of fitting into a new team dynamic in a wildly different setting, and that he's able to mind his P's and Q's both on and off the court. If he can do all that and look good in the process, he could join Smith, Martin, Chandler, McGrady and others who have parlayed successful stints in China into stretch-run gigs with contending NBA teams (and, in the case of Smith and Chandler, long-term contracts after the fact). As always with Delonte West, I'll be hoping for that best possible outcome; as ever, sadly, I don't plan to hold my breath while waiting.
Hat-tip to Eye on Basketball.
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- Delonte West
- Chinese Basketball Association
- Fujian Xunxing