INDEPENDENCE – Day Two in the will-he-or-will-he-not-show-up-at-practice saga of Delonte West came Wednesday and the Cavaliers sound unfazed by the situation.
West surprised everyone Tuesday by not showing up for the team’s first practice after appearing at the team’s Media Day Monday seemingly in good spirits.
The enigmatic and troubled guard faced the media a little more than a week after being arrested on gun charges. While it’s easy to paint this as a player who’s aloof and selfish even, his teammates said that’s not the case.
‘’Basketball has nothing to do with what’s going on, so he needs to take as much time as he needs and when he comes back we’re going to welcome him the way we’ve always done,’’ LeBron James said. ‘’When he gets back it’s going to be as if he was always here.’’
West has dealt with depression and bipolar disorder for years, a fact that came to light last year when he disappeared from training camp for 12 days, so this is nothing new for the Cavaliers.
‘’We’ve been around this block before with Delonte, so we know how to handle it,’’ James said. Point guard Mo Williams said that the basketball court is West’s respite from his reality, a place where he finds solace. For that reason, they remain patient. ‘’Outside of basketball, he struggles with things,’’ he said.
While neither Williams nor James has had any contact personally with West, they said that they’re sure that he’s going to be fine.
‘’I’m not worried about him. I would worry about someone who doesn’t have a supporting cast around him that really cares and is really not trying to help him,’’ West said. ‘’He’s in a situation that he’s getting professional help from everywhere.’’
Both said that the current situation is no distraction for the team, saying that he has their full support. But the reality of this particular situation is that while West sorts his issues out, time moves on and so does the team.
For now, Coach Mike Brown said his team will concentrate on maintaining a bunker mentality so that no outside noise creeps in.
There’s no sense of panic because the team signed Anthony Parker, a traditional, long shooting guard from the Toronto Raptors during the offseason. At some point if West pushes things too far, the organization will have to reach a point where some sort of decision regarding his future in a Cleveland uniform has to be made.
Mike Brown was coy regarding who would be his starting center come opening night. Barring injury, the worst kept secret in town is that Shaquille O'Neal would be starting at that position.
For Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has given the team his blood, sweat, tears and feet, this could be a bitter moment. Not so.
Ilgauskas knew Shaq was coming and had little problem with it. His reaction in a nutshell: I'd rather be playing with him than against him. For the record that extends to practice as well.
''I did it a long time ago with John Lucas coming off my foot surgery,'' Ilgauskas said. ''It's still basketball. It's an adjustment. How I prepare for games and what my mindset - I guess it's something I have to learn on the fly basically because I haven't done it a lot."
UPDATE: Cavs G.M. has been in touch with West and says that the troubled point guard was attending to a ''personal matter.''
INDEPENDENCE - Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West didn't participate in the first of two team practices today at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Coach Mike Brown said that West wasn't there and he wasn't aware of whether he'd be available for the day's second workout or if the team had been in touch with the enigmatic Cavs' guard, saying that G.M. Danny Ferry had been handling that situation and West could easily been in contact with him.
Last season West missed a couple weeks of training camp to deal with what was later revealed to be a mental illness. But this year, off season troubles began to trickle into the season. Upper Marlboro, Md. police arrested West earlier this month on weapons charges after he confessed to having three guns on him including a loaded shotgun in a guitar case.
The NBA and Cavaliers said they will let the legalities of his situation play out before deciding whether to levy any penalty.
What the team seems to be focused on is ensuring there are no distractions to derail what could be a run at a championship.
'''We have to have a bunker mentality. The reality of it is with the addition of Shaq with the addition of the other people we have there are going to be a lot of distractions,'' Coach Mike Brown said. '' We have to try as best we can to maintain that bunker mentality by not allowing outside influences to take us off course.
''I have to continue to look forward and coach this team and not allowing us to get sidetracked. Whether it’s Delonte or someone else, if they miss practice and it’s an unexcused practice, that will be handled internally.''
I'm going to get a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "I Survived Cavs Media Day 2009."
Not because it was horrific or anything, but because Mother Nature decided to be a witch and spoil some of the fun by knocking out power within a one-block radius of Cleveland Clinic Courts, the Cavaliers practice facility. Here's hoping that's not some sort of ominious sign.
There were so interesting moments to be had some of which David Lee Morgan dealt with in prior blog posts.
But one that I found particularly intriguing was the case of Delonte West. Casting all objectivity aside, you have to admire West for participating despite his recent arrest almost two weeks ago. He could have easily begged off, but chose to at least face the media, even if he declined to discuss the case in detail.
Additionally you have to at least admire the honesty. West said basically admitted that he'd been off the medication he takes for his illness, which according to reports is bipolar disease. Some would question why he was even off it.
I can only go by what I know from a family member and family friend who have both battled the condition. Apparently, depending on the medication, an individual doesn't feel like themselves when they are taking it. If I worked nine months of the year, chances are I'd go off it too if it affected me that way.
That aside, it's not an excuse for what West did in carrying around three loaded weapons, but until all the facts are out and the legal process has played out, judgment shouldn't be passed.
When LeBron James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary and Shaquille O'Neal was with the Lakers, O'Neal watched LeBron play in a tournament game in Canton, while Shaq and the Lakers were in town to play the Cavs.
LeBron said he didn't talk to Shaq that night but the two talked the next day.
``He just told me to keep working hard,'' LeBron said. ``That's what I remembered.''
Now that Shaq and LeBron are together, Shaq said he doesn't know why there's talk about whether or not these two superstars can coexist. He said that won't be an issue at all.
``Every great team with a 1-2 punch, the big man has always been that other guy,'' Shaq said.
Cavs guard Delonte West is happy the season has started because he's back playing basketball, instead of talking about his recent off-the-court troubles.
Earlier this month, West was arrested after being pulled over by police in Maryland for carrying two concealed weapons, and he had a shotgun in a guitar case.
Delonte, who has talked openly about his bipolar disorder, didn't want to talk about the incident because it's an on-going investigation. But he did say ``I'm back taking my meds.''
That's great to hear.
Cavs point guard Mo Williams looked relaxed talking to reporters during media day. From a physical standpoint, he said he ``feels great'', noting that when he came to camp last year, he was coming off problems with a hernia and bad thump. He said when he reported to camp, it was really the first time he had played since recovering from those ailments.
We all know the outstanding (regular) season Williams had last year, but he said the playoffs was a different experience- and he said experience was the difference.
Williams said during the regular he was comfortable from an offensive standpoint with the rhythm he had when he was shooting from the outside. He said he was able to take his time and get his feet in the right position to shoot the ball.
But Williams said in the playoffs, especially in the Orlando series, he was trying to force too many shots and he just wasn't comfortable with his offensive rhythm.
``You play at a different speed (in the playoffs),'' Williams said. ``It's a different tempo...I made plays, I just didn't make enough of them. At the end of the day, it falls in the category of experience and I had never been in that situation before.''
Williams said he's looking forward to playing with LeBron and Shaq together and said the fans should be excited as well.
``It will be fun for the fans,'' Williams said. ``When you're talking about how the economy is and people spending their hard-earned money, they should be able to come out and see us win and have fun.''
And with Shaq on the team?
``It's already Day 1 of the madness,'' Williams said with a smile.''
During the Cavs Media Day Monday at Cleveland Clinic Cpurts, Shaquille O'Neal finally met with the media around 4:30 p.m. (the press conference had to be moved into the weight room because of the loss of power) and it was chaos as reporters jockeyed for position to talk to O'Neal.
But the thing that caught my attention was how adamant Shaq wass about wanting to win his fifth NBA championship ring. And he's serious about wanting to be in Cleveland.
``Cleveland has always been very hospitable to me and I'm excited to be here,'' Shaq told reporters.
Shaq also said he had a message for Cavs fans.
``Hopefully, I add that belief because the first key (to winning an NBA championship) is belief.''
The one thing that amuses me about Shaq is that for a guy so physically imposing, he talks like he's always in a library.
If you're like a lot of sports fans who subscribe to the belief that the worst officiating can be found in the NBA, that supposition gained even more credibility moments ago when the league announced that they were going ahead and formally training replacement referees.
From the league's general counsel:
To read more or comment...
Numerous media outlets are reporting that Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West was arrested on multiple gun charges around 10 p.m. Thursday night near his offseason home in Prince George's County Maryland.
West was driving his three-wheeled motorcycle north on Interstate 95 near Route 214 when he cut off a marked patrol car, according to the Washington Post.
After being pulled over West informed the cop that he had a gun in his waist band. Upon a search he was reportedly found to have another handgun strapped to his leg and a shotgun concealed in a guitar case slung across his back, per the report.
He is charged with speeding and two counts of possession of a handgun, according to the Washington Post.
UPDATE 5:17: Akron Beacon Journal beat writer George Thomas just passed along this statement from Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry:
If he could score a recording contract and eke out a hit record from it, Akron's LeBron James would indeed be the King of All Media.
Just as he has on the basketball court, James has now found success in the literary world as an author. Shooting Stars, the book about the Akron St. Vincent-St Mary basketball team and the friendships formed by the players on that team, will debut at No. 13 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for the week of Sept. 27, according to a spokesman for Penguin Books.
The book, which James co-authored with noted sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, writer of Friday Night Lights, was released by Penguin Books Sept. 8. But, of course, books aren't enough as James has a documentary film - More Than a Game - about those high school years debuting Oct. 2.
The league's current most valuable player apparently isn't satisfied with just the documentary film genre either.
The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that James will appear in a comedy - Fantasy Basketball Camp - for Universal Studios. It's the story of five guys attending James' basketball camp. James will, of course, play himself in the movie.
James was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment. He will get the opportunity to talk about all of his off-court exploits Tuesday when he appears on The Late Show with David Letterman on WOIO (Channel 19).
Normally no one would get up for any type of exhibition sporting event, but when the Cavs preseason tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m., there's at least one intriguing matchup of the three games that will be played at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs will play a total eight exhition games. The three at the are against the Charlotte Bobcats on Oct. 6 and the Washington Wizards on Oct. 14. The one of interest comes on Oct. 12 against Greek powerhouse Olympiacos on Oct. 12. Not being one to follow a lot of Euroleague ball, this one should provide an interesting contrast in styles.
The Cavs will play in two neutral locations that are within driving distance of Cleveland. On Oct. 20 they will play the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 p.m. on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. The next night at 7 p.m. they play the Boston Celtics at Schottenstein Arena on the campus of the Ohio State University.
Tickets, beginning at $10 are available online at cavs.com, by phone at 1-800-820-2287 or at the Quicken Loans box office for games at The Q.
Tickets for the Pittsburgh game are available on Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster outless or charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000. Tickets for the Columbus game go on sale Friday, Sept. 11 through Ticketmaster as well.