THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A hopeful West gets his cast off

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / January 5, 2011

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The cast is off, and the wrist looks normal. Delonte West sees progress after a difficult six-week stretch with a broken right wrist.

West said he can begin basketball activities in about three weeks, and he is expected to return to the Celtics lineup after the All-Star break, which is about six weeks. There wasn’t nearly that kind of optimism when West injured the wrist Nov. 24 after being knocked off-balance by New Jersey’s Travis Outlaw on a layup.

The injury was so gruesome that there was concern West would have to miss the season. But his rehabilitation has progressed faster than expected, and he was all smiles after doctors removed the cast yesterday.

“It’s killing me sitting back here looking from the sidelines,’’ said West, who had played in five games following a 10-game suspension to begin the season. “Honestly, I have no idea [about the All-Star break], but I am going to do the best I can to get back before then.’’

West said he needs to regain movement and then begin strengthening exercises. He has been able to take shots because he is lefthanded.

His first priorities, he said, are “picking up weights and catching a basketball. Right now, my biggest fear is falling and landing on it. Today is Day 1 and a good day. The cast is off and it’s all uphill from here.’’

West has been around the team during home games and has remained optimistic throughout the recovery. With the Celtics battered by injuries in the backcourt — Rajon Rondo’s ankle, Nate Robinson’s sore feet — West’s versatility will be sorely needed for the stretch run.

“It feels great [to have the cast off],’’ said West. “Also, I got a chance to wash it today, so the smell of Cheetos is gone.

“It’s big for my morale, to look down and not see that cast. Actually, I almost put my jersey on today. I had my shorts on and everything and got a workout in. The day will be here before you know it and I will be back out there on the floor.’’

If Von Wafer is on the Celtics roster tonight, his contract will be guaranteed for the rest of the season. That doesn’t mean they can’t waive him after today, but if they do, he will be paid for the entire season.

Players such as Rodney Carney (Golden State), John Lucas III (Chicago), and Sundiata Gaines (Minnesota) were waived yesterday before the deadline.

Celtics president Danny Ainge indicated that a decision would not be made until today, but Wafer’s season-best 10-point, 6-rebound effort in Monday’s win over the Timberwolves may have helped his cause.

West also has a nonguaranteed deal, but all indications are the Celtics plan to keep him for the rest of the season.

The Celtics don’t get much of a break in the schedule, even though they are in stretch of playing 11 of 14 games at home. After barely holding on to beat the Timberwolves Monday, they run into the league-best Spurs tonight. The Spurs are mixing offense (fourth in the league in scoring) with solid defense (10th in points allowed).

“We can’t have a bad start,’’ said Ray Allen. “We can’t come out and think we’ll get back in the game. They’ve got the best record in the league for a reason.

“We have to come out and we have to execute and know our personnel and we have to make sure we take away the stuff they do well.’’

The Spurs are dominating the league without a major statistical contribution from Tim Duncan, who is averaging 13.6 points per game in 28.9 minutes — both career lows.

Unheralded guards George Hill and Gary Neal have combined for nearly 20 points per game, while Tony Parker has increased his production after an injury-played 2009-10 season.

“They’ve improved their team with a lot of younger players that are all being productive,’’ said Allen. “If you think about their lineup, I’m looking at their roster and watching them play, and some guys I don’t know but they are in there a substantial amount of time and are very productive.

“They’re subscribing to [coach Gregg] Popovich’s philosophy and have guys stepping up and playing well for them.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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