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LOS ANGELES -- For all the hoopla surrounding the roster moves made by the Boston Celtics at the NBA trade deadline on Thursday (and potential future moves with roster space available to add players who land in the buyout scrap heap), the biggest midseason addition might have occurred Tuesday night in the Bay Area with virtually no fanfare.
That's when Delonte West, who had sat out the previous 39 games with a fractured right wrist, returned to Boston's lineup, logging 12 rust-filled and scoreless minutes against the Golden State Warriors in his first action since Nov. 24.
|In his second game back from a fractured wrist on Saturday, Delonte West provided key minutes as backup point guard, something the Celtics have lacked.|
Coupled with a 10-game suspension to start the season for an off-court incident, West had appeared in only five games before Tuesday's post-All-Star opener in Oakland. On Saturday, West quietly scored six of his nine points in the second half, burying a pair of 3-pointers after intermission as Boston rallied from a 13-point deficit for a 99-92 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.
West did a little bit of everything, but mostly was a pest at both ends, particularly on defense where his scrappiness frustrated Clipper ballhandlers.
"[I've been] missing in action so much, I think guys forget I can play a little bit," West said after the game with a sly smile. "That's the way I like to keep it, though.
"I'm kind of a jack-of-all-trades. I do a lot of things good. Maybe not one thing great, but I do a lot of things good. I come off the bench, I'm able to see what's going on out there, and just come in and fill in, try to pick up where we're lacking."
Playing primarily as the backup point guard, West added five assists and three rebounds over 19:18 on Saturday, giving Boston a boost in a role that largely has been a liability this season. He also helped keep Rajon Rondo's minutes as manageable as they've been all season (only nine times has Rondo logged fewer than 34 minutes in a game this season; he played 34:12 on Saturday).
"[West] was huge," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You could see Rondo was tired. He came in, you could see him slowly [getting it], because he's been running [at shooting guard] most of the time with Nate [Robinson]. And now he's going to run a lot more at the point spot and just picking up the sets. That's our whole thing right now. We have so many guys that have such a small library right now of our offense and we have to enhance that."
West says there's no urgency to expand that library, even with only 25 games remaining in the regular season. He's confident it will click for both him and the other new faces.
In fact, when West wasn't on the floor showcasing his own improvement Saturday, he was on the bench next to Jeff Green, pointing out where the newly acquired forward needs to be in various sets and plays. The two players, shipped to Seattle in the 2007 draft day deal that brought Ray Allen and Glen Davis to Boston, have clearly bonded again with the Celtics and that could prove pivotal for the success of the bench moving forward.
"I knew Delonte growing up," Green said. "He was with me my first year in Seattle, so we've got a close bond, and he was just helping me along the way. He's been in Boston for a long time, and he was just showing me the ropes, some of the plays that I didn't quite get. He was just trying to help me through, and when we got in the game things went smooth between us. I know how to read him, he knows how to read me."
The best is yet to come for West, especially as he continues to rehab his fractured right (non-shooting) wrist. He's averaging a mere 6.6 points per game this season (the lowest since his rookie campaign) but is shooting right at his career average (44.7 percent) despite his long absences.
West said it doesn't matter if he's playing the point guard spot or off the ball. His versatility offers Rivers a lot of possibilities, as does the rest of Boston's bench (Green can play the 3 or 4; Glen Davis can bounce between the 4 and 5; and Krstic, once Shaquille O'Neal is healthy, is a backup 5 with the potential to stretch the floor).
"I have years of experience playing the point guard, playing off the ball, so it's an easy transition for me to do either one," West said. "Plus I know Doc's system. I'm refreshing myself, but I pretty much know the ins and outs [of what] he's trying to accomplish, so it's easy for me to make the transition from 2 to 1 out there."
There are more strides to be made, but West hopes he'll continue to fly below the radar -- and continue to stay healthy.
"Each day I'm feeling better, I'm feeling more confident," West said. "Obviously, the wrist is still not where I want it to be. I missed two passes [Saturday] because the ball was coming more toward the [injured] right hand, so I've got to get better in that aspect. And I haven't had a lot of practice.
"If we can finish out this road trip, get back [to Boston], and get back in the office and start building this team up and getting a rhythm, I'll be able to produce a little more."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.