Delonte West, limited to just 44 games last year, is ready to see what he can do in a full season.
By STEVE HUNTFS Southwest
DALLAS-- No matter how he might have been viewed before joining the
Dallas Mavericks prior to last season, Delonte West was a great addition to Rick Carlisle's roster last year. Of course, his truly gruesome finger injury limited him to just 44 games but when he was healthy and on the floor, as Carlisle put it after practice on Wednesday, West had an impact in every phase of the game and he couldn't be happier about having him back.
"Well, he's a terrific all-around player. He gives us something really in virtually every area of the game," Carlisle said. "Offensively, he can score and make plays. Defensively, he can be one of the better defenders at his size in this league and we like his experience. He gained a lot of credibility last year in our locker room with our guys. I'm happy to have him back."
Along with the rest of the Mavs, West headed to Germany for the start of preseason play on Wednesday afternoon. While every member of the Dallas roster was looking forward to the trip that will see them play one game in Berlin and another in Barcelona, Spain before returning in the middle part of next week, this veteran guard was excited for a different reason.
"I've never left the United States," he admitted. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a great thing the NBA's doing now that the game's gone so global, getting teams out there and allowing other countries to experience the NBA experience. Just bringing Dirk [Nowitzki] back home [to Germany], that shows you the NBA is global and the NBA is doing the right thing."
By every account, it was a quiet summer for the 29-year-old guard. West did appear in Nowitzki's celebrity baseball game in Frisco right before the start of free agency but that was about the only time he spoke to the media. And he admits having a summer where his name wasn't in the news is definitely a big positive.
"That's a good thing, ain't it? I tried my best," he said. "I was itching to get on that Twitter and everything. I just kept things in perspective. I didn't want to put the organization, the franchise in any type of compromised position. I still had to do things the right way. I was a free agent. I wanted to be here."
Of the 44 games he appeared in last season for Dallas, he started in 33 of those. But with an influx of backcourt talent in the form of Darren Collison, the new starting point guard and O.J. Mayo, who figures to start at the two, West's impact this season figures to come off the bench, which is just fine with this native of Washington, D.C.
"I'm honored and blessed at this opportunity. They extended my contract. Some people say I'm crazy. I just have a different way of looking at things. I feel like I'm on a two-year contract. I am on a multiyear, it just started last year," he said. "I'm very happy. My family's blessed and I just thank Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson for giving me the opportunity to help this franchise win."
And one big reason why he wanted to return is because he thoroughly enjoyed his first year under Carlisle, who is known as a coach who holds his players accountable while also developing great relationships with them both on and off the court. Furthering that relationship with the veteran NBA head coach is definitely something he looks forward to doing this season.
"It's great because Coach Carlisle gets it. He really gets it. He was a player himself and he just gets it, understands what players go through," West said. "He understands that fine line I have between that competitive drive that I have that sometimes crosses over and I hold onto anger. He understands me. It's a good relationship."
One big reason why the relationship between coach and player is so rock solid is because it is a relationship built on the high level of mutual respect they have for one another. "I love him as a kid," Carlisle said. "I love the fact that he faces challenges day-to-day, meets them head on and he's honest. He and I talk a lot. It's a relationship that isn't always smelling like roses, but we manage to grow because we're talking all the time. It's important that I hear what he has to say because he's a knowledgeable guy. Sometimes he's got to listen to me. Sometimes he's not crazy about it."
Carlisle isn't a coach who gets caught up in who should play what position so he can have the perfect lineup. No, he holds firm to the belief that if a guy's a good basketball player then he'll get minutes. That's definitely how he sees West, who he loves as an all-around player above all else. Should D-West stay healthy for the entire year and there isn't any reason to think he won't, then he figures to again be a key contributor to a retooled Mavs squad that once it starts to gel as a unit could be a true dark horse in the Western Conference.