Delonte West missed one day of practice Monday with back spasms, but he was back on the court the following morning, ready to work. After his return Tuesday, the Celtics' guard bristled at the suggestion that maybe he was working his body too hard.
"You can never be working too hard," West said. "Stay ready, and you ain't got to get ready."
West explained that he's battled only minor spasms, and moving forward, he feels good to go. It's a good thing, too, because this preseason should be a big one for the 26-year-old Celtics guard.
Being suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season, West has to do everything in his power between now and Oct. 26 to establish himself as a vital member of these Celtics. Because after that, all bets are off.
"I want to make a good impression," West said. "I want to show these guys that I'm here to win and that I can be a contributor. Because once the season tips off and the ball goes up in the air for the first time, you're just looking forward. You're trying to win the next game. And 10 games is a lot of games. It's only two weeks in reality, but that's still a lot of games that I have to miss.
The Celtics have brought in a lot of fresh faces and a lot of personalities this season, and October is a time for the C's to come together and build a newfound sense of team chemistry. West knows that for him, the process will be that much harder.
"With my suspension, I have to be out of the locker room and out of the building two hours in advance," he said. "And those are the most important things — pregames. Guys warming up, guys in pregame huddles, and the first speech that Doc's going to give before game one, I'm going to miss. And those are important things. That's why going into this preseason, I have to take as much as I can. And then Nov. 17, I'm going to be ready to go."
West has been through a lot over the last year, and he's now working hard to prove to Doc Rivers that he can be a positive member of this team. He's the last guy to leave the gym every afternoon — every day, he's on the floor long after his teammates have left, working on perfecting his jump shot and getting into game shape.
"It's one day at a time," he said. "One day at a time. You've just got to embrace each day as it presents itself. Tomorrow's not promised to any of us, so you've got to enjoy right now. Do your work as best as you can, and hopefully in the end, your work pays off."
West has been squaring off every day in practice with Ray Allen, the former Seattle SuperSonic who was traded for him three summers ago. Now they're both in Boston together. West was once a starter in Boston on a young team struggling to find its way; he's now playing for a title contender, backing up a future Hall of Famer. And he's perfectly fine with that.
"It's actually a plus for me coming off the bench, because I can sit and try to see what we're doing, how we're going to attack the other team on any given night," West said. "See what we're lacking. I can try to come in and pick up the slack and fit in."
West has reinvented himself. Last year in Cleveland, he was seen as an inconsistent player on the floor and a head case off it, but in Boston, he's a modest, hardworking guy just looking to help the Celtics.
It doesn't matter what role is asked of him — West is going to do what it takes.
"I've always been a playmaker my whole career," he said. "I've never been specifically just a point guard or specifically a shooting guard. I've toned my game to be able to make the right play at the right time. Whatever it is, that's what I do: I make the right play."
From here, the right play for Delonte West is just continuing to work, readying himself for that night in mid-November when he can finally have an impact with these Celtics. West is counting down the days.
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