There was nothing fancy about Delonte West’s season debut tonight. West had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in 22 minutes, but he underwhelmed until the fourth quarter, where he settled in with the second unit.
“The first half I just wanted to get my feet wet,” said West. “I noticed that my timing was off a little bit. I didn’t want to do too much. Sometimes your not doing too much is not what the team needs you to do.”
Make no mistake. West it not a bit player. He played 33 minutes per game last season, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers to the best home record in the league. Anchoring the second unit, West figures to play fewer minutes than he played in Cleveland but more than he played tonight.
“[He was] rusty a little bit on the first stint,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “I thought after halftime he probably got his legs a little bit and he just played terrific. You know he gives us — obviously he gives us offense — but he gives us another tough guard on the floor, and that’s good for us.”
There’s a perception that West is a bad guy. He is, after all, returning from a 10-game suspension for trouble off the court. A tiff with teammate Von Wafer earlier this season became public. But on the court, West seems like the team player the Celtics are looking for. Shaquille O’Neal, who played with West last season, said the combo guard is misunderstood.
“He is a great player,” said O’Neal. “He played well. I had the opportunity to play with him last year. Great player. Great guy. He’s going to be a spark for us at times. I learned that you guys think he’s crazy, but he’s not. Not at all. I can handle him. We always have conversations about the game. I think he’s just misunderstood at times. He’s been practicing with us. While on the road, he’s been working out 2 to 3 times a day. He’s ready, and he’s going to be focused.”
Said West, “For a minute there in the summer time I thought I wouldn’t see an NBA court again. I thank the lord, ownership here, the coaching staff, and Danny Ainge. They know what I am about. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do.”