Shaq's Debut Overshadowed by Delonte West, Replacement Officials
CLEVELAND -- The Shaq show was overshadowed.
Center Shaquille O'Neal made his preseason debut for Cleveland on Tuesday night, looking good in a 92-87 win over Charlotte at Quicken Loans Arena. But most of the talk after the game centered on Delonte West's continued troubles and Bobcats coach Larry Brown's frustration with replacement officials.
A source said after the game that West will not be at Cavaliers practice Wednesday, and it's possible his absence could continue beyond that. The source said he will be in the Washington D.C. area Wednesday to address legal matters concerning his Sept. 17 arrest in Maryland after police said he was pulled over for speeding on a motorcycle while carrying two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun in a guitar case.
Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry declined comment to FanHouse after the game. But the team is expected to have a statement Wednesday on West.
West, who hasn't talked to reporters since the team's media day Sept. 28, got testy before the game when reporters attempted to interview him, and wouldn't comment. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown had said before the game West would play and he warmed up, but he wasn't used nor was even on the bench.
"Danny approached me and told me that he wasn't going to play,'' Brown said. "It was his decision he did not want him to play. ... Delonte is going through a process right now, but, while he's going through that process, we're trying to use all the resources that we have available to help him through it. It's going to take a little bit of time, but we have the patience to deal with it.''
West missed a game that featured a total of 55 fouls called by replacement officials, with Cleveland shooting 41 free throws to Charlotte's 24. Larry Brown got a technical in the final minute of the third quarter for arguing a call on a Bobcats player, and continued to ride the officials the rest of the game.
"They're learning,'' the Charlotte coach said about the replacement officials, who are working preseason games while the regular officials are locked out. "They're trying to get better. This is not an easy game to officiate. All you want as a coach is consistency, but this is not an easy thing for them. We have the best officials in all of sports, and this is the way it is.''
The negativity overshadowed the first game with Cleveland for O'Neal, acquired during the summer from Phoenix. Playing only the first half, O'Neal totaled six points, three rebounds and a block in 16 minutes. His new sidekick, Cavaliers star LeBron James, had 15 points while also only playing the first half.
Mike Brown ended up using 18 of the 20 players on his roster. The only ones who didn't play were Leon Powe, out following knee surgery, and West.
It remains to be seen when West might play again. He had unexcused absences from two-a-day practices Sept. 29 and Sept. 30 before returning Oct. 1. West did not make the trip to Akron, Ohio, for a team scrimmage last Saturday.
"We have a nice support system around him,'' said Mike Brown. "He has a nice support system back at home in place. I'm confident that he's going to utilize it just like he did last year. And things will get him back on track, and he'll do what he needs to do to keep himself right first because that's more important than this game.''
West, who has a bipolar disorder, last year missed 12 days of the Cavaliers' training camp to seek treatment for depression and a "mood disorder'' he said he has battled his entire life.
"I'm not really thinking about that, sitting back and, 'Well how much time is he going to need,''' said Mike Brown. "If he needs some time, then we'll have to sit back and have to talk about it. Danny has been involved with this process this whole time. I've just gotten updates.''
Meanwhile, the games continue. And at least O'Neal wasn't critical of the replacement officials after his Cavaliers debut.
"They're out they're working hard,'' O'Neal said. "They did a fabulous job. The (locked-out) refs want their business handled a certain way. The great (NBA commissioner) David Stern wants his business handled a certain way. Hopefully, they can come to some type of medium. I thought the officials -- I don't want to call them replacement officials because they're in the same program as all the veterans -- did a nice job. But hopefully the real referees will come back because this is an important season for a lot of people and we want everything done right. We want everybody that's supposed to be in place to be in place.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.