Delonte West, Shaquille O'Neal Risky Chemistry Moves for Celtics
Things just got more complicated for Doc Rivers.
The Celtics improved their talent level this summer by first adding Shaquille O'Neal and now Delonte West, but they also dove into some risky territory with two potentially divisive players who could change the locker room makeup.
If chemistry really is such a big part of the success or failure of a team, like so many coaches say, then the Celtics admittedly are taking a chance.
It could win them another championship. Or it could destroy what they have.
"Chemistry is a delicate thing. I understand that, and I'm as cautious as anyone with it. I guarantee you, I'll be keeping my eye on it,'' Rivers told FanHouse Wednesday evening, confirming the Celtics' addition of West earlier in the day. "I don't know yet if we can make it work. It is going to be interesting, that's for sure.''
It's a chance the Celtics are willing to take, the benefit of having a confident coach and strong cast of veteran leaders. It's also an admission that they are scared to death of the Miami Heat and what the Big Three are doing in South Florida.
The Celtics, who lost to the Lakers in the 2010 Finals, may not be the best team in the East anymore, but they surely will have the most intriguing mix of players, especially now with the omnipotent O'Neal and the enigmatic West.
"It's not going to be an easy sell, maybe my toughest sell, but I do think we can get it done,'' he said. "If your goal is anything other than winning a championship, you're going to have a problem with chemistry.''
After weighing his options, Rivers decided to return to Boston this season because he wanted to win another title before the Celtics started to rebuild. He might be questioning that decision before he reaches Christmas.
The addition of O'Neal, well past his prime, gives the Celtics his vast championship experience, but it also gives them one of the strongest personalities in the league, a potential threat to the leadership core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
The addition of West gives the Celtics a third point guard behind Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson -- both a bit unorthodox themselves -- and a lot of uncertainty.
West will be starting the season on a 10-game NBA suspension, stemming from the gun possession charge last fall. He was arrested in Maryland for speeding on his motorcycle, where he had two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun in a guitar case.
He also was the one who was blamed (without any substantiation) for messing with the chemistry last spring in Cleveland. And it hung sadly over the end of the Cavs' season.
West will be returning to the team where he started his NBA career. He was drafted by the Celtics in 2004 and played for three seasons in Boston before he was traded to Seattle as part of the deal that brought over Ray Allen. After half a season with the Sonics, he was dealt to Cleveland, where he showed flashes of promise but also some inconsistent behavior. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Although the Minnesota Timberwolves took him in a trade from the Cavaliers earlier this summer, they had no intention of keeping him. The Wolves waived him Aug. 3, paying only $500,000 of his $4.6 million salary for this season before releasing him.
The Celtics, according to a report in the Boston Globe, will be signing him to a non-guaranteed contract, which should protect them if things turn sour. West, if he is mentally ready to play, could be a big plus for the Celtics. He is a good ball-handler and shooter who could fit nicely with a championship contender.
He was key with the Cavs, especially two seasons ago when they won 66 games. Last season, he played in just 60, averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 assists in 25 minutes.
He and O'Neal could give the Celtics the boost they need to stay ahead of the Heat and the Orlando Magic. It gives them size in the front court and more quickness in the back.
But they also could be the changes that cause the Celtics more trouble than they are worth.
"We've gotten a couple guys who have had some problems. Nate has had problems, Shaq has had some problems, Delonte, too,'' Rivers said. "But I think we're getting them at the right time. They're not coming to be stars. They are coming to be role players trying to help us win a championship. They'll make a difference.''