West’s Game Speaks for Itself
Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM | October 4, 2007
During his introduction to the local media at Monday's Media Day, Seattle SuperSonics newcomer Delonte West admitted that, as an East Coaster throughout his life, Seattle felt like the other side of the world. "It seems like that little corner all the way on the top of the map over there," said West, who grew up in Maryland, went to college in Philadelphia and spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with Boston.
That distance extends both directions, and West may have gone relatively unnoticed by fans in the Pacific Northwest before he was traded to the Sonics on Draft night. His NBA career thus far might best be known for an outspoken, quotable personality that made him a fan favorite with the Celtics. Even when West was part of a St. Joe's team that went undefeated during the 2003-04 regular season and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, he was overshadowed in his own backcourt by teammate Jameer Nelson.
Sonics fans may not know that West averaged the most minutes of any current Sonics player who was in the NBA last season, 32.2 minutes a night with 47 starts for the Celtics. They may not know why GM Sam Presti told the media after trading Ray Allen for a package including West, "It's hard to do a deal like we did without Delonte West in the deal."
"He's a very, very, very good player," said Wally Szczerbiak, traded from Boston to Seattle with West. "I looked at myself, Paul (Pierce) and him as kinda the three veterans on the team last year, because he had gone through college - played in big games, knew the little things it took to win those close games."
Taken by the Celtics with the last of their three first-round picks in 2004, West lost the first half of his rookie season to a pair of broken bones in his hand. By the start of his second season, however, West had established himself as Boston's starting point guard. He averaged 11.8 points, 4.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 38.5% from three-point range. Last year, West saw more time at shooting guard than the point and averaged a career-best 12.2 points per game.
West's ability to play both guard positions is just part of the versatility he has become best known for as an NBA player. He's got legitimate three-point range, but is also a tough defender. West contributes on the glass and even offers regular blocked shots from the backcourt.
"You can't really label me," said West, describing his own game. "I have a lot of assets that I bring to the floor. I kinda don't really fit into one category. You can't label me as a shooter, because most shooters, that's all they want to do. I bring more dimensions than just shooting the ball. I think over the course of the year, you're going to form opinions about what type of player I am and then a week later I might change your mind and you say I'm a different type of player."
There is consensus about one thing - West's style of play.
"I'm a hard-nosed player," he said. "I like to get in there, get my nose dirty. I love to compete. I love the game of basketball, the actual competition of it."
"He's a hard-nosed player," echoed Szczerbiak. "He'll do whatever you ask him to do. He's a tough, hard-nosed defender."
"Delonte West is a big-time competitor," said Presti on Draft night, when he also referred to both West and Szczerbiak as hard nosed. "Shot-maker, guy that competes every possession, can play two positions. We talked about bringing in competitors, guys that love to play, guys that work, guys that play for the team - Delonte West is that guy."
West, who was limited Wednesday during practice after having the toenail removed from his left big toe, is part of an intense competition for playing time in the backcourt. Sonics Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo wants to evaluate West as compared to Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson, who split time as starters at the point last season. If three proves a crowd at point guard, West's versatility becomes important because he can play shooting guard instead.
While West downplayed the importance of starting, noting he would rather be in the game in the clutch, he welcomes the competition.
"We're competitors," he said. "I wouldn't want it any other way. I would hate to come in here and they just say, 'Here, Delonte, pick your number out. Here's where you're going to be playing at, here's how many minutes you're going to being playing a game and here's how much we want you to score.' When you earn that situation, it feels much better in the end."
West has some concerns about the weather in Seattle, pointing out to the media at Media Day it had rained ever since he arrived in town for training camp and that had him "a little depressed." That hasn't stopped him from embracing the change and his new environment. He's excited to get on the court and compete.
"Expectations are the sky," West said. "I've verbally discussed that with my team. Expectations are the sky. We put our jerseys on, our tennis shoes on like everyone else in this league. There's always favorites to win a game, but any given night I believe will always exceeds skill. If you've got the will to go out and win and play hard every possession, you give yourself the best opportunity to win games. That seems to go along the lines of what (Coach) Carlesimo wants to do."