Cavaliers' West dealing with issues 'one day at a time'

Posted: December 17, 2009

DURING HIS time at Saint Joseph's, Delonte West was a bit of a riddle away from the court. On the court, he was fierce on defense, relentless on offense and one of the great shooters in Big 5 history.

In his three seasons on Hawk Hill, ending in 2004, West was always approachable, quotable and fun. He was generous with his time, a born storyteller who never minded sharing.

There was, however, another side that lingered just beneath the surface.

The Cleveland Cavaliers guard, in town with his team for last night's game against the Sixers, let everybody in on that other side last March while answering questions on a team blog. He has bipolar disorder and has been in treatment for more than 2 years.

Whether it was the illness that contributed to his bizarre, late-night, three-wheel, Can-Am Spyder motorcycle ride on the Capital Beltway just outside Washington on Sept. 17 likely will be determined by the legal system sometime in 2010.

West was arrested that night near Largo, Md., after he was pulled over for cutting off a police officer. The officer then discovered one handgun in West's pocket, another in his pant leg and a shotgun in a guitar case strapped to his back.

On Nov. 3, West was indicted on several weapons charges and two driving offenses.

Right after the incident, West's father Dmitri was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: "All I can say is Delonte was looking behind his back and protecting himself."

From what or whom is unclear.

West, 26, went to Eleanor Roosevelt High in Prince George's County, Md. He owns a $1 million home in the same county.

He signed a 3-year, $12.7 million contract in September 2008. A month later, he left the team during training camp to get treatment for what he called depression.

"I felt a sense of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," West said then. "I needed help."

Cavs officials were supportive then, and remain supportive today.

This season, at training camp, West missed the first four practices. He also missed all eight preseason games and the first three regular-season games. Later, he missed five more games.

Recently, he had been playing his best ball of the season. He had 21 points at Milwaukee and 14 at Houston. He averaged 26.6 minutes over five games.

Then, he had a few "tough days," according to several people close to the team. He was inactive for Tuesday's home game with New Jersey. Last night, he played 21 minutes in his team's 108-101 win over the Sixers, scoring four points to go with two steals and two rebounds.

Those with bipolar disorder swing wildly between moods - all the way from depression to mania. What and when are not terribly predictable.

The Cavaliers arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City early yesterday morning.

West's college coach, Phil Martelli, spent the day trying to contact his former player.

"Because of how much time I spent with Delonte away from basketball, it's painful to be unable to help him," Martelli said. "I don't know what I don't know so all I can be is as supportive as I can be from a distance, realizing that because of the distance I'm not always going to be there when he needs me.

"I can't identify when he does or he doesn't need me, but it does hurt not to be able to touch him, feel him, put an arm around his shoulder.

West called Martelli back in mid-afternoon and left a message.

When Martelli finally got West on the phone, he said: "If you want me to be there, I will be in the hallway after the game."

The coach was headed for North Jersey to check out a recruit when he got a call saying the game had been canceled. He then changed plans, called West - who was on the Cavs bus - and headed for the Wachovia Center.

West was hanging in the Cavs locker room a little after 5:30, dancing to some music. When he was told Martelli was in the hallway, he put down the headphones and came to see his coach.

"One day at a time," West said when asked how he was doing. "Baby steps, baby steps."

Martelli and West huddled for a good 45 minutes in that hallway. As they were getting ready to break up, Allen Iverson came down the hallway to greet West and ask how he was doing.

Finally, West had to go change into his uniform and Martelli explained that West just was not ready for any in-depth interviews or really any interviews at all.

"He has a couple of worlds going on at once," Martelli said. "Certainly, the legal is weighing on him. Dealing with [his illness] on a daily basis and basketball."

The two talked about life and basketball. Which, in West's case, are very much intertwined.

Last season, West was the starting shooting guard on the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. He had the new contract. Was playing with LeBron. Life looked good, even if the Cavs fell a series short of the NBA Finals.

Then, he drove that motorcycle on I-495 in September.

"When you try to look at a silver lining in the whole thing, to play in that league with the best in the world and having all this swirling around you, he is a great, great talent," Martelli said.

Cavs coach Mike Brown concurred.

"He's a very good basketball player and a very good person," Brown said. "His work ethic . . . is off the charts.

"I've got a son in the ninth grade who's a decent player. He's a lefty [like West]. I tell my son, 'Any time Delonte's on the floor, working out, watch him.' He's got to be one of the best workout players I've ever been around, ever seen.

"His imagination when he's working out, the skills that he works on are off the charts. I tell my son, 'Watch Delonte.' If he does, it'll help his game."

Anybody who has spent much time watching West practice or play knows of his unique ability. The playing has never been an issue. It is that time away from the court that has been quite a bit more difficult.

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