Assist by West will be welcome
MIAMI — Between Nate Robinson and Delonte West, West is the calm one.
Robinson is the free spirit and the free scorer. West is the playoff-tested floor general raised in the system of Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
A year ago, Robinson had point guard responsibilities, but with West here now, there is someone to free him up.
In the preseason, they were perfect tag-team partners. Their chemistry made Rivers giddy with the possibilities, but he has had to temper the excitement because West’s 10-game suspension has postponed plans of playing with his new backcourt.
If anyone has been affected by West’s suspension, it is Robinson. With West on the floor, all Robinson had to focus on was scoring. With the countdown to West’s return at two games, Robinson knows the immediate impact West will have.
“Of course, Delonte’s going to help out a lot when he gets back and we get this thing rolling,’’ Robinson said. “I know sometimes I look back and preseason Delonte’s running the point and I can just run up the court and play freely back and forth with the 1 or the 2. It doesn’t matter.
“So when he comes back, it’s going to be easier for everybody to get off offensively. Defensively, we’re going to be pressuring. He knows his spots, he plays the passing lanes, everything. He’s going to help us out a lot.’’
Rivers has done his best on this road trip to get Robinson into a rhythm. Robinson started the season 8 for 33 from the floor and 2 of 15 from the 3-point line. In the win over Oklahoma City Sunday, Robinson had his best shooting night of the season, scoring 9 points, including a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer.
But by and large, he has either been calling out plays, looking back at the bench at Rivers for cues, or helping Turkish big man Semih Erden with plays, taking on all the responsibilities West would relieve him of.
“Nate loses a lot because now I think it affects his shot,’’ Rivers said. “It’s just like last year, where he’s a ballhandler, and then all of a sudden he has to be the scorer, too. I think that’s hurt him.
“Clearly, he shot the ball well in the preseason when Delonte was on the floor. And in games when Delonte didn’t play, Nate didn’t shoot the ball well. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.’’
Another side effect of West’s absence has been Rajon Rondo’s minutes. He is playing 40.8 a night, and even though he got a break in the blowout of the Thunder (just 36 minutes), he was on the floor for 42 minutes Monday night as the Celtics put up a failed comeback bid against Dallas.
The Celtics have managed to win even though Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal have dealt with early-season injuries. Shaquille O’Neal could return tomorrow against the Heat. Jermaine O’Neal left Monday night’s game after 11 minutes because of soreness in his left knee, and if he plays tomorrow, he’ll likely be wearing a brace.
All of the issues have made it impossible for Rivers to play the second unit (or the starting unit, for that matter) he had envisioned. Still, the Celtics subs pummeled Oklahoma City’s bench, 33-12.
But Rivers is looking forward to getting West back.
“I think it’ll be interesting to see,’’ Rivers said. “He does give us that two-headed dragon, where either one of those guys could bring the ball up the floor and they play off each other.
“Delonte, he’s a tremendous scorer from either the 1 or the 2 spot. So it’s interesting when you think about it. When he comes back, it changes the whole dynamic all over again.’’
Rivers will have to think about different rotations and determine which groups work well together.
“It almost gives Doc more problems,’’ said Ray Allen.
Considering he has spent the first two weeks of the season losing players, if adding players is a problem, Rivers will take it.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.