Delonte West eager to help C's cause
WALTHAM, Mass. -- And on the 11th game, Delonte West's neighbors rested.
With West barred from the arena for two hours before and after each of the 10 games he was suspended to start the 2010-11 season, he often watched Boston Celtics games from his living room sofa like a casual fan.
And since nearly a third of those games spilled into overtime and only one was decided by double figures, West found himself cheering pretty enthusiastically in support of his teammates. Loudly enough that neighbors had to ask him to keep it down.
"My neighbors even banged on the wall a few times," West said with a smile. But those overzealous moments only made him appreciate his impending return more.
"Seeing those guys on TV, it made me think to myself: I'm a part of that. Then I come in and see those guys [at the practice facility] and you appreciate being in the NBA all over again."
The Celtics expect to thrust West back into battle Wednesday night when the Washington Wizards visit TD Garden. West, who was drafted by the Celtics in 2004 and was part of the trade that brought Ray Allen to Boston after the 2006-07 season, downplayed the potential for nerves. But it figures to be an emotional evening as he's likely to receive a stirring ovation when he checks into the game for the first time as Garden fans who roared for him the first three seasons of his NBA career should welcome back an old friend with open arms and offer him their support after a tumultuous summer.
West said his only nervousness stems from his wind.
"I'm anxious to see how my conditioning is," he said. "Of course, [in] the weight room and [practice floor], there's nothing like game situations. You just have to get out there, run up and down to get in the flow of things. Besides that, I've been in the league several years and played tough games. I think Washington in a regular-season game, I'll be all right."
That's a sentiment echoed by coach Doc Rivers, who said he won't limit West's minutes. He knows West will be able to handle whatever he throws at him.
That may be because West has already pushed himself far harder than any coach would ever ask. If the Celtics forced their players to punch in and out of the gym, there's little doubt West would be the FILO (first in, last out). The team bus often departed without him during training camp in Newport, R.I. West would just be getting into his post- practice routine when others were getting back to their hotel rooms.
In fact, West might have pushed himself too hard. After an offseason dotted with court appearances for the weapons charges that led to his 10-game suspension, West fully admits he didn't have time to work out as much as he would have liked.
After being signed by the Celtics on Sept. 1, West ramped up his activity even with the suspension offering what amounted to three extra weeks of preseason for him. There were days in Newport where he'd be leaning on the wall, a bucket next to him in case he got sick, and he'd still be running full-court sprints as punishment for missing shots.
It backfired, as his glutes and back tightened up during the exhibition season, limiting him to three preseason appearances (one of which he departed early) and a total of 66 minutes of floor time.
Following Boston's overtime triumph Saturday in Memphis, his penance expired, and while West says he can't get back what he missed, he's eager to start helping his team toward its goal of an NBA title.
"You want to be out there, definitely, at the start of the season, when chemistry is being built," said West. "That's the worst part of the whole suspension thing. I've talked about it before, but you're missing locker-room time, pregame speeches and taking the floor with your team. You really miss a lot. That's where a lot of chemistry is built. In the bigger picture, 10 games go past in [three weeks], but it was a long [three] weeks for me."
What does West, who said he's at full health, add to Boston's second unit?
"Experience," said backup big man Glen Davis. "He's a veteran. He's done a lot of things in this league, been in big-time situations. He's going to help us out."
The Celtics expect a few bumps during West's reintegration, particularly after the Boston reserves began forging chemistry during a four-game road trip. But they all know West will ultimately help.
Asked how West will fit in, Rivers said, "I have no idea. Obviously, Delonte is going to help us, but I don't know exactly how yet.
"We're playing pretty well now. We have a pretty good rhythm and [West is] going to change our rhythm a little bit. So we're going to have to get used to that. Having said that, I'd rather have that than not. We'll see. I think Delonte will help Nate [Robinson] the most, but we'll wait and see. He'll help us."
West is expected to share ball-handling duties with Robinson. West talked at length Monday about how important it is for those two to continue to forge chemistry as they essentially will tag-team as the backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo. Or, as West dubbed it, "the brain out there on the floor."
There have been times when the second unit has looked desperate for West's presence. Fair or not, he will be expected to give the reserves an immediate jolt.
But West doesn't seem fazed by it all.
"There's no pressure," said West. "I know what I can do, what I bring to the floor. I'm very confident in what I'm able to do out on the basketball court. They're not asking me to do anything that I can't do.
"They're not telling me to go out there and post up and get 30 rebounds. They're just asking me to go play my game. That's the best feeling ever, when someone is telling you that being you is going to help this team out.
"I think that's going to be easy for me."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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