It’s easy to blame Delonte West for punching Von Wafer after a three-on-three game today. West was, according to Alex Kennedy’s report, the aggressor in the game, fouling Wafer on every possession. West was the one who later aproached Wafer in the locker room. West was the one who threw the first punch. West is also the bi-polar one.
But blame Von Wafer too.
After a small (read: minuscule) altercation broke out between West and Wafer last week (yes, it’s become a pattern), an unnamed Celtics player was quoted by Kennedy as saying, “It’s obvious when [West] hasn’t taken his medicine.”
At the time, I speculated that Wafer was the player who leaked the quote and I had my reasons. Kennedy has some type of working relationship with Wafer. He rarely ever reports about the Celtics, but when he does it almost always involves Wafer. Kennedy was the first to report the Celtics’ interest in Wafer this summer, and also the first to report when the Celtics signed Wafer. Wafer had just been in a spat with West, and probably harbored some hostility for that. Wafer has also been outspoken about his desire to play minutes, and West is one player he has to surpass in the depth chart to get those minutes.
Based on those reasons and the report that West himself believed Wafer had leaked the quote, I am going to assume Wafer did leak it. Maybe I’m wrong. But we’ll never know for sure who leaked the quote (rule number one of being a scribe: don’t reveal your sources), and all the evidence suggests it was Wafer.
So now put yourself in Delonte West’s shoes. You are battling bi-polar disorder and trying to regain the public’s faith. You get in a minor spat with one of your teammates at practice, a spat that barely warranted reporting, and even that was bad enough for your image. The next thing you know, you’re reading a tweet that says your teammates can tell when you don’t take your medicine. One of your teammates let you down, you understand, and all the signs suggest it was Wafer.
Wouldn’t you be mad too?
Teammates are supposed to share an almost-sacred bond. They are supposed to have each other’s backs at all times. They are supposed to keep issues between themselves, and they are supposed to speak about them like men. They are supposed to be like brothers, like family away from home. They certainly are not supposed to leak harmful quotes to the press, especially when the player they’re talking about is mentally fragile. Teammates should always be supportive.
Yet Von Wafer (and again, I’m assuming) aired West’s issues to the world. He failed as a teammate. I would have wanted to fight him too.
But that’s where West has to receive blame. You can want to fight somebody without actually doing it. You can have issues with somebody without chasing him into a locker room and swinging your fist at his head. You can deal with your anger in a positive way, rather than fouling an opponent every time he touches the ball. As an adult and a professional, West should have dealt with his emotions differently. He never should have resorted to physical aggression. He has mental health issues, we know, but those cannot be used as an excuse for violent, disruptive behavior.
Thankfully, the Celtics are not considering waiving West, as had originally been reported. Needless to say, losing his on-court presence would have — in a word – sucked. He’s a gritty, skilled player who provides a little bit of everything. He was signed to solidify the team’s bench and provide an extra playmaker, on both ends of the court. He fits in perfectly, on the court. But he still can’t be fighting teammates.
I find myself wondering whether it would be the right move to release Wafer instead. He was on the receiving end of the first punch, but he (I’m assuming) started the feud. Would waiving Wafer mean West would stop fighting teammates altogether? Not necessarily. But I find it oddly soothing that West fought Wafer, and not somebody else. Wafer is a known problem-child, an aggravator, someone who has been in and out of coach’s doghouses since the day he entered the NBA. At least West didn’t fight Kevin Garnett, a loyal teammate by any estimation. That would have been more concerning, no? The fact that West fought Wafer, rather than someone else, makes me think that West was provoked. It makes me think he’s not as at fault as Kennedy’s report made him out to be.
Kennedy’s report read partially, “West has gotten into skirmishes with multiple teammates this season and his confrontational ways have grown old very quickly in the locker room.” But Danny Ainge disputed the notion that West has had skirmishes with other teammates (“There was a lot of lies in that story,” he said.), and Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources who backed Ainge’s sentiment. West is only having problems with Wafer. He hasn’t had issues with anybody else. And if the 15th man is becoming a problem for the 6th or 7th man to deal with, doesn’t it make sense that the 15th man would be the one to go?
Maybe cutting Wafer would be harsh. Maye it would be unfair to cut one person who got in a fight and not the other. After all, it takes two to tango. But Wafer is expendable. The Celtics don’t need him and they do need West. Fair or not, that’s the truth of the matter. If those two can’t co-exist and both are equally at fault for the ongoing feud, Wafer’s going to be the one to go.
If he does get cut at some point, I doubt I’ll shed any tears. Wafer hasn’t done anything in his short stint with the Celtics, on or off the court, to earn my affection. And if he was the one who leaked the story, as I assume he was, the Celtics are better off without him on the team. Nobody needs a teammate like that, especially one who’s not good enough to make an on-court impact.
What’s more forgivable, betraying a teammate or punching a teammate who betrayed you? Punching a teammate who betrayed you, any day of the week. If Wafer really did leak that quote, I can relate with West’s anger. I can even sympathize with him. But I can never sympathize with a player who breaches a teammate’s trust. As a 15th man who barely made the team, that’s a damn good way to get cut.
I can’t imagine Stephane Lasme getting into any fist fights.