Much-Maligned Delonte West Realizes He's a Role Model
ATLANTA -- Not only does Delonte West not want to be like Charles Barkley when it comes to retiring without a title ring, he won't be taking any similar stances about not being a role model.
The Boston guard recently returned from a 10-day NBA suspension to start the season due a September 2009 incident in which he pleaded guilty to carrying three guns and two knives while on motorcycle outside Washington D.C.
What West said has been reinforced is that he needs to serve as a better example.
"I'm a role model, and I'm put in this position because of my talents to where other people's children out there look up to us,'' West said in an interview with FanHouse before Boston's 99-76 rout of Atlanta on Monday night at Philips Arena. "We got to make sure that we keep that in perspective. It's not about us. And bad decisions grownups should frown upon because their kids watch. I'm just trying to make better decisions, really.''
Still, West has found his name linked to negative situations since then. Just last month, West got into a locker-room fight at practice with teammate Von Wafer, an incident Boston coach Doc Rivers called a "bad day.'' And there were rumors that with Cleveland late last season West had an intimate relationship with Gloria James, the mother of star LeBron James, who soon bolted from the Cavaliers to Miami as a free agent.
West shrugged off the situation involving Wafer, saying one reason it got the publicity it did was because of the motorcycle incident. West reiterated his denial from the team's September media day about Gloria James while talking further with FanHouse about the reports.
"Not at all,'' West said about there not being any intimate relationship. "I feel sorry that this is a society we're moving into. ... Everyday society has taken the media out of your hands, and with the Twitters and being able to put things out to the world from your mobile phone. Who knows who makes this stuff up? It could have been a 14-year-old kid somewhere who threw that out, unfortunately.''
West expressed disappointment in the reports, and how they might have affected the James family.
"You've got to remember, this is just a game,'' West said. "Some people are die-hard fans and they paint their face and it's all great. But you got to do unto others as you have unto yourself. People say something about your mother and drag your mother through something like that and your family, you'd be ready to do something yourself. So it's sad that happened. But, you know, they hated Jesus, too. You got to keep going. So I wish (LeBron James) much success down there (in Miami) with his family, and I got to keep going here.''
West signed a non-guaranteed minimum contract so the Celtics can waive him any time without further obligation until Jan. 10, when contracts become guaranteed for the season. West talked about the Celtics making it clear before the season they won't tolerate bad behavior.
"It's all about perception,'' said West, who revealed in 2008 he's bipolar. "I know we're human and we make mistakes. But when you have a team that is trying to make pushes for championships, you don't want any bad decisions that can take the focus away from what the team is focusing on. You don't want to have for one second a guy worrying about what's this guy doing on the court with you when you're (trying) to win the championship. That makes a lot of sense.''
There are differing opinions on whether West's incident with Wafer constituted a bad decision. Hoopsworld.com reported the two got in a fistfight in the locker room following a competitive game of three-on-three following an Oct. 29 team meeting. It was reported Wafer headed to the team locker room and was followed by West, who threw the first punch and the two wrestled.
"He's had a bad day already, and he's going to have one,'' said Rivers, who otherwise lauded West's behavior so far. "But we just got to work with him. (The incident with Wafer) was handled inside. ... But it wasn't the right thing, and (West) knew that.''
Well, maybe West doesn't know that. He claimed the incident was blown out of proportion, although he wouldn't give details on what happened with Wafer.
"It wasn't necessarily negative,'' West said. "Things were taken out of context. Somebody took it and ran with it. There's a part of competition when games are played. Guys get into it, exchanging words, rough play. I guess (it was publicized) because I've been riding a motorcycle. It might have something to do with motorcycles, I guess. So I don't know. But it's no big deal. People wanted to make a big deal of it.''
West and Wafer might have had a disagreement in that locker room. But there wasn't one Monday.
"Just being competitive with each other. That's it,'' said Wafer, agreeing with West in shrugging off the incident. "It wasn't even that big of a deal. It just got blown out of proportion because (West) is who he is.''
The incident on the three-wheeled motorcycle occurred Sept. 17, 2009, when West was pulled over for a traffic violation. During the stop, he was found to have a 9mm Beretta pistol, a .357 Magnum and a Remington 870 in a guitar case. He also had more than 100 rounds of shotgun ammunition and an eight-inch Bowie knife.
West pleaded guilty last summer to the traffic and weapons charges and was sentenced to electronic monitoring, unsupervised probation, 40 hours of community service as well as psychological counseling.
West was traded last summer to Minnesota, which immediately waived him because only $500,000 of his previous of $4.6 million contract for 2010-11 had been guaranteed. There was little interest in the 6-foot-3 combo guard until the Celtics and Rivers, who had coached West with Boston from 2004-07 until he was traded to Seattle, gave him an opportunity.
"He's been good,'' River said of West overall. "He hasn't played a lot of games but he's been great. ... Every day is a better day for him is the way we look at it as a person and as a player. ... At the end of the year, if he came out of this and didn't help us basketball-wise but was great as a person for the rest of his life, then in my mind we've done something very good here. And, probably, if that happens, then he's probably going to help us on the floor, too. Let's just be honest, and that's why we have him here.''
After missing the first 10 games, West has helped the Celtics. In his four games back, he's averaged 7.5 points and 2.0 assists while shooting 57.1 percent.
"Well, this is my seventh year in the league,'' said West, who had six points and three assists in 19 minutes Monday as the Celtics played a second straight game with star point guard Rajon Rondo sitting out due to a hamstring problem. "I did prepare myself well in the offseason. It's nothing new going out there and playing basketball.''
West, on Cleveland teams the previous two seasons that had the best record in the NBA and didn't even make the NBA Finals, says he's "starving to win'' what would be a first NBA title.
Throw out off-the-court situations and it's hard to complain much about West, 27, as a player. He's got a career scoring average of 10.0 while being a 37.4-percent three-point marksman.
"Unfortunately, we don't talk about the good things that players do enough and the stuff that goes on negatively, you brandish a player as that guy,'' said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "My dealings with Delonte, we get up a lot of shots together and I like his knowledge of the game. We're judged I think a lot of times in trying situations. So he's been a great teammate thus far, and we know he can really help us.''
Allen invited West to his Halloween party last month. He showed up wearing the mask from "V is for Vendetta."
West, who said he simply chose the mask quickly at a costume store, claims to have no vendetta against anybody these days. He just wants to play ball and try to be a good role model.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson