Danny Ainge has a difficult job this offseason. Considering how much money the Celtics have to spend, Ainge more or less needs to pull an entire bench out of his rump.
One piece Ainge would certainly like to retain and rely upon in the coming years is Delonte West. Playing under a veteran’s minimum contract last season (and behaving well, preseason fight with Von Wafer not included), West would have been one of the league’s greatest bargains if he did not suffer through suspension and injuries that limited him to 24 regular season games and kept him from gaining any semblance of rhythm in the Celtics’ system.
West could potentially give Boston a home-town discount this offseason, when he’s a free agent. After all, the team took a chance on him during his lowest point, shortly after he committed a felony, when he faced a 10-game suspension to start the season and questions about his bipolar disorder haunted his value on the open market. A sense of loyalty could lead West to accept a (slightly) lower offer from the Celtics than other teams are willing to throw his way.
But West doesn’t sound like a guy who considers himself a cheap pickup. (Boston Globe — READ THE WHOLE STORY. IT’S VERY WELL DONE.)
“My biggest thing that I haven’t had since I’ve been in the league really is comfort,’’ he said. “I haven’t had anyone say, ‘We actually believe what you can do.’ ’’ …
“Because I was pulled over, now I’m a league minimum player?’’ West said. “I’m one of those guys that have to keep proving myself over and over again. That’s been the story of my life, and that’s OK.’’ …
“I’m in the same category as Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford,’’ he said. “I think my name should be right in that talk. As far as you saying, ‘Let’s get a guy we can put on our bench who can come in and get it done,’ I think I’m right in the same talk with them.’’
West has said multiple times he would like to remain in Boston in 2011-12. That makes sense. He’s comfortable with the players, Doc Rivers understands his value, and Danny Ainge trusted him when other general managers wouldn’t. But West is not a veteran’s minimum player. He won’t be as sought-after as Jamal Crawford this summer (largely due to West’s injury and personal issues, but also due to a lack of production during his 24 regular season games last year), but there are 30 teams in the NBA who could use a player like Delonte West, someone who can create offense on one end and dig in his heels on the other.
Perhaps West gives Boston a hometown discount. But there should be some real competition for his services, and he clearly doesn’t consider himself a league minimum player.