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After a stint with the Los Angeles Clippers' Summer League squad didn't result in a domestic job offer for the season ahead, former NBA guard Delonte West decided to return to China, signing a one-year deal with the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks in the hope of securing a solid payday while preparing to make another push for a return to the big show. That hoped-for comeback appears to have just gotten even farther away, though.
USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick reports that the Sharks have waived the 31-year-old West just four games into his tenure with the club, putting the career of the former St. Joseph's standout — who last played in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011-12 season — in a "most precarious position."
West's non-guaranteed deal with the Sharks would have paid him about $500,000 for the season and could have neared $1 million with certain bonuses and incentives, according to a person with knowledge of his situation. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the details of his deal were not disclosed publicly.
The Sharks, who also have former NBA player Michael Beasley on board, were 0-6 during West's time there. West last played for the Sharks on Friday, finishing with four points and three assists in a loss.
That brought West's averages to just 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per contest for Shanghai, a steep decline from the much more impressive numbers — 22.6 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals in 34.2 minutes per game — he turned in for the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association last season.
"Honestly, we did not expect such a drop in performance," Shanghai coach Ma Yuenan told reporters, according to ESPN.
Nor, you'd suspect, did West.
The combo guard, who spent time with the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks over the course of eight NBA seasons, didn't exactly light it up for the Clips' Las Vegas squad. He did, however, seem to make a concerted effort this summer to rehabilitate his image through multiple in-depth interviews focused on the way he's perceived by NBA observers and fans after multiple stories about his struggles with bipolar disorder and his run-ins with both former employers (a pair of suspensions for "conduct detrimental to the [Mavericks]," in an eight-day span that led the team to waive West one day before the start of the 2012-13 season) and with the law (his 2009 arrest for operating a motorcycle with a heavy-duty arsenal in a "Velcro-type bag").
"Reporters can’t write a sentence — they can’t write a sentence about even a good game — without mentioning something from four years ago,” West told SLAM's Tzvi Twersky in a July 2013 interview. “There are plenty of players arrested for DUIs, gun charges, this and that. [Meanwhile], they’ve made me into the Terminator [...] When I played basketball, because I worked so hard, [the court has] always been the one place where people couldn’t laugh at me. All of a sudden the laughter is now coming from the mainstream. Everywhere I look, the joke is on me."
West's renewed willingness to open himself up to reporters produced pieces that offered plenty to chew on — considerations of the way rumors spread and psychological disorders are misunderstood, how unsourced jokes metastasize into what passes for common knowledge, how fatherhood has calmed West, and so on. But after a fairly unimpressive on-court showing in Vegas — six points on 36.4 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 22.3 minutes per game over three contests — West found himself without even a training-camp shot at a return to the NBA.
Another strong season in China could have made him an attractive option for teams looking to fortify their backcourts with one more key signing come springtime. Now, though, whatever the reasons behind his early exit from Shanghai, it's hard to imagine prospective suitors considering his inability to stick with the Sharks a mark in his favor.
That's a shame for those of us who came to love West's game during his time in the NBA, who valued his toughness, versatility skill and fearlessness, whether holding the ball or defending it. More importantly, though, it's a shame for West and the family he's working to support.
"I'm not living for just me anymore," West told VICE Sports during an interview that took viewers inside his home and introduced us to his wife, Caressa, and young son, Cash. "It's changed me when I wake up every morning, when I see my son just staring at me. You know, when I walk out of the room, he's looking for me to come back. He's counting on me to feed him, and change his Pampers. It just makes you want to be the best person you could ever be in life."
The hope is that West is able to find a way forward, a way to stay connected to the game he loves and still provide for the family that has given him new life. The fear, though, is that with each missed opportunity, the chances of him doing so by returning to the NBA dwindle ever smaller.
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