September 02, 2010
That's despite any actual rooting interest in the Boston Celtics, to take the minor end of things, and despite the ridiculously poor judgment shown by West off the court on the major end. He's no role model. Beset by legal woes, the NBA has already come down with a double-figure suspension for the former Cavaliers guard, and he won't even be able to play until Nov. 17 as a result.
But while the last thing West needs right now is to be thinking about basketball, he needs basketball, badly. He needs a paycheck and steady dose of income and a reliable support system if he's going to try and overcome the mental issues that have plagued him throughout his career. A long time away from the court may have been the best thing for West's state of mind, but he'll need an employer with a plan. He can't work through this on his own.
Hell, he needs a real team (and LeBron's Cavaliers, as we saw in two consecutive playoff flops, were hardly the heartiest sorts) around him just to get his act together as a grown-up, because a solid chunk of West's behavior can be chalked up to mere churlishness, and can't be excused by his issues with depression.
And on the basketball end? Picking up Delonte West, even if it's for half a season, is always going to be a smart move.
Because he can play. And he won't put the Celtics over the top, and there may have been other teams that were crying out for his hybrid-guard skills more than Boston, but Boston can really use him, and West can ably sop up minutes at either guard slot. He defends point guards better than he does shooting guards, but he's quite capable of playing either position offensively, and the Cavs were a better defensive team with him on the court last year than they were with West on the pine.
But one would hope that Boston's plans run more toward the ranks of the magnanimous more than they do the "let's win another before KG completely falls apart."
The hope is that Boston GM Danny Ainge, who originally drafted West back in 2004, is looking more to be the guy in charge when Delonte West gets it all together, than just being the guy who hired Delonte West to play for his team while in his prime. This would mean time off, if needed, whether mandated by the NBA or just as a quick response to something gone a little batty. A different set of locker-room rules, as West finds his balance in public.
These things tend to get in the way of team chemistry, especially on a win-now sort of veteran team that will be featuring all sorts of players working through painful physical (and not mental) afflictions. No person, much less player or teammate, can understand what Delonte is going through. And this can cause resentment. Delonte's no dummy, either, when it comes to the locker room. So that resentment -- whether real or perceived -- could add to his guilt, his frustrations and his depression. Ainge, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers, have to be ready for all of this.
There's no point in telling them what to do, of course, what with my zero credits logged in pre-med. And, really, Ainge and Rivers can bone up and listen to dozens of voices telling them the usual way to try and help West through his more painful days, but they just won't know how to deal with his ups and downs until they're face to face with them. The fact that he's only 27 allows for hope that West can get it all together. The fact that he's already 27 tells you that Delonte West has some deep-seated issues that will take a long time to work out.
So even with the nonguaranteed contract, you would hope that the Celtics are in it for the long haul, and not for some guy to take a chance on because Tony Allen(notes) followed the money to Memphis (and how many times do we get a chance to say that?). Because this really could be the first season of the rest of Delonte's life, in 2009-10, as their supportive environment and steady work could be the best possible thing for West as he tries to move forward.
There was a lot of "hopes" in this column. Here's hoping just some of them come true.