DALLAS – After Delonte West arrived in Dallas, coach Rick Carlisle greeted the guard with open arms despite all of his off-court baggage.
“Listen, I like milk drinkers, but I don’t like too many milk drinkers,” Carlisle said at the time.
What Carlisle meant was that the Mavs need some nastiness. West brings a bunch of it.
As the old saying goes, you can sometimes have too much of a good thing. That can be the case with West’s competitive fire, which is occasionally complicated by his battles with bipolar disorder.
Carlisle suspended West for conduct detrimental to the team after a postgame locker room outburst Monday night. (UPDATE: West was reinstated Tuesday after meeting with Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.) They’ve butted heads before, such as after an extended, wee-hours-of-the-morning Twitter rant by West early last season and following the infamous “West Willy” applied to Jazz guard Gordon Hayward’s ear, which netted West a $25,000 fine.
But Carlisle lobbied to bring West back to Dallas this season. The coach values his relationship with his quirky guard, which Carlisle made clear again just before the Mavs boarded their flight to Europe.
“I love him as a kid,” Carlisle said on Oct. 3. “I love the fact that he faces challenges day to day and he meets them head on and he’s honest. He and I talk a lot. It’s a relationship that isn’t always smelling like roses, but we manage to grow because we’re talking all the time.
“It’s important that I always hear what he has to say because he’s a knowledgeable guy. Sometimes he’s got to listen to me. Sometimes he’s not crazy about it, but that’s just the way it is.”
West’s response when informed of Carlisle’s comments that afternoon: “He was a player himself and he just gets it. He understands what players go through. He understands the mental aspect of it. He understands that fine line I have between that competitive drive I have that sometimes crosses over and I hold on to anger. He understands me, so it’s a good relationship.”
Cooler heads prevailed when West sat down with Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson on Tuesday afternoon.
This was one of those times that West had to listen to Carlisle, whether he was crazy about it or not.