Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Delonte West vows he's back for good
By Chris Forsberg
Whether intentional or not, Celtics reserve guard Delonte West used the word "definitely" five times during a brief confab with the media Sunday to describe the potential of him returning to game action Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
The 2010-11 season has been anything but definitive for West, who has appeared in just eight games, missing a total of 57 contests due to a combination of suspension and injuries. But West appears hellbent on getting back on the floor and staying there for the remainder of the year.
While the Celtics have preached a "take your time" mentality with their injured, West made it obvious Sunday that he's ready to shed the shackles. Frustrated by a slow recovery from what seemed like a minor injury, West participated in his first on-court activity Sunday, then immediately declared he'd be available against Indiana.
"No, it's not [a] slow, 'take your time [approach]' over here," said West. "I've taken enough time. It's been four or five months already, so it's long overdue and I can't wait to get this injury bug behind me."
West did not accompany the team on its trip to New Jersey on Monday, but stressed that he'd use the three days leading up to Wednesday's visit from the Pacers to ramp up his activity. While Celtics coach Doc Rivers left the possibility for West's return to be bumped to later in the week, West was adamant it would be Wednesday.
You can understand his itchiness. After missing 39 games with a fractured right wrist, West was settling back in when, after his third game back from the wrist injury, he rolled his ankle in non-contact skeleton drills during an informal offday practice aimed at getting newly acquired Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic up to speed on Boston's playbook.
West figured it was only a minor setback; maybe miss a game or two. Sixteen days and eight games later, West is still on the sideline and Boston was actually forced to add Carlos Arroyo as a backup ball-handler in order to spell minute-weary Rajon Rondo.
Arroyo is exceeding expectations while easing Rondo's workload -- making a push to be a part of Boston's playoff rotation -- which leaves West's role muddied as he prepares to return. But one thing is certain: There's no shortage of available minutes for both players. It will be interesting to see whether West handles the ball or whether he plays a more natural role off the ball.
While it's a limited sampling size, West has played better at the shooting guard spot this season, Boston's offensive efficiency a whopping 15 points better (99.4 points per 100 possessions) with him at shooting guard.
Either way, the Celtics still need West (particularly if this is merely a honeymoon period for Miami-jettisoned Arroyo) and his combo guard skills. The Celtics need the 9.9 points per game West has averaged for his career; they need the consistent defense he provides; and they need him to be the X-Factor they envisioned when he was the final of 11 offseason signings by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
But, more than anything, they need to figure out how he now fits into this Celtics puzzle as the playoffs rumble near.
"It's not so much about helping the second unit," West admitted. "It's about putting myself in a position to help this team out any way possible. I think my ability to defend smaller and quicker guards will help out, the same with my size. Also, timely shooting, being able to spread the floor. We have a lot of that, but the more we can open the floor up for our scorers and guys that can create, the better we're going to be, so I'm looking to contribute in more than just one aspect of the game."
While Green and Krstic have already appeared in more games (9) for Boston this season than West, Rivers knows West can make people forget the amount of time he missed by thriving down the stretch.
"There's still a lot of season left," said Rivers. "If Delonte didn't play a game this year, then played well in the playoffs, you would say he had a successful season. At the end of the day, be available at the end."
And if there's the tiniest of silver linings to West's most recent absence, it's that he got additional time to heal that right wrist.
"The one blessing about this whole thing is I get more time to rest the wrist and also strengthen it," said West. "I feel good, I haven't even looked to put the brace on the last week or so. I know [team trainer] Ed Lacerte is going to be on me in a minute, I'll be wearing it Wednesday, but it's still strong. I'm not even really favoring it right now. That's the one positive about this ankle sprain."
The other positive is that the absence only made West hungrier. He feels like he has a lot to prove and he's eager to start. And, to him, there's no better time than Wednesday.
|Delonte West is clearly tired of sitting the bench: "I've taken enough time. It's been four or five months already, so it's long overdue and I can't wait to get this injury bug behind me."|
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.