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West isn't shy about his Celtic ambitions

SEATTLE -- It was supposed to be a simple 20-second television sound bite wishing Celtics fans Happy New Year. If players wanted, they could mention a New Year's resolution. Those who agreed to go on camera when the messages were taped last week also cautioned fans not to drink and drive.

But Delonte West didn't stop there. With a black scarf wrapped around his head, West took the microphone and walked around the court at the practice facility in Waltham, Mass., narrating a mini-tour. It was hilarious.

But West had one serious point. He gestured toward the 16 championship banners ringing the court and said his resolution was to hang No. 17. Not necessarily next year, but sometime during his Boston tenure.

On camera or on the court, West is at his best when he feels comfortable and allows himself to be a little creative. He plays best when he uses his instincts, something that has not always been easy for the second-year point guard.

It took almost 20 games for West to really feel comfortable and confident as a starter. The Celtics faced the Sonics last night at Key Arena with West coming off what may have been his best all-around performance of the season. He scored 15 points, grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds, and added 5 assists in 34 minutes against the Jazz last Wednesday at the TD Banknorth Garden.

''I don't think I'm trying to be more aggressive," said West. ''I think I'm just trying to play my game.

''The first couple games, I was always concerned about making sure we were always in our offense. That was causing me to be more robotic. I just found a way to incorporate the way I like to play into our offense.

''I just like to play basketball. I enjoy just playing, playing offense, playing defense, getting those loose balls and causing havoc. That's the type of player I am.

''When I'm playing my game, there's a lot of things that I can do well. They've just got to let me play."

Paul Pierce has repeatedly echoed those sentiments, believing that the young point guard just needs to feel comfortable being flexible on the court and worry less about making the perfect pass or orchestrating the perfect play. With maturity and experience, Pierce knows, West and others will reach a point where they feel at ease with a more impromptu, up-tempo game.

Against Utah, West looked ready to take his game to another level on both ends. Overall, he went into last night averaging 9.0 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds in almost 32 minutes per game.

In his return from a mild concussion against the Jazz, West had no fear pursuing loose balls, on the glass or on the floor, and added two blocked shots to his totals. Then again, West has joked that he's always been a bit hard-headed. It's a quality that makes the oft-injured point guard a tough competitor, but it also leads him to risk his health just to be on the court.

Coach Doc Rivers would like West to be strong-minded and strong-willed on defense, but a little less so on offense.

''When he tries to force the action offensively, he gets himself in trouble," said Rivers. ''When he just allows the game to come to him offensively and forces it defensively, then he's really good for us."

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