Celtics

West makes emotional debut after months of buildup

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West makes emotional debut after months of buildup

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - There was a point during the summer when Delonte West didn't know if he would ever play in the NBA again.

Just four months ago, he was waiting for a ruling from the league after pleading guilty to weapons charges.

On Wednesday night, he was waiting for Doc Rivers call his name to play for the Boston Celtics.

West felt a surge of emotion when he took his first step on to the court since serving a 10-game suspension.

Then he was hit by reality.

"I was anxious," he said after the Celtics victory over the Washington Wizards. "I was wondering how the crowd was going to respond. They showed me a lot of love. I almost had a tear in my eye. Then Nick Young gave me like four buckets in a row and then the tears dried real fast. I remembered I'm back in the NBA."

West has been eagerly waiting for November 17, biding his time by practicing with the team and getting in workouts while they were on the road.

Aside from exhibition games, Wednesday was the first night this regular season West has been allowed at the TD Garden during game time. He was able to do the little things he coveted and missed during his suspension -- listen to coach Doc Rivers' pregame speech, get hyped up in the team huddle, and run out of the tunnel on to the parquet in a Celtics uniform. They all added up to a big moment.

"I just thank the Lord that the ownership here and coaching staff and director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, they know what I'm about," he said. "They knew the difference between a bad decision and a bad person. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do."

West was greeted by a standing ovation when he checked in for the first time with 3:12 left in the first quarter. His first contribution was fittingly an assist to Paul Pierce, whom he played with for three seasons during his first stint in Boston.

West finished the first half with two points and one assist, a rebound, a steal, and a foul in eight minutes. He admitted initially his timing was off and he wanted to get his feet wet without forcing the game.

"I didn't want to do too much," he said. "Sometimes your not doing too much is not what the team needs you to do."

He responded in the second half by shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the field (including a pair of 3-pointers) and added another 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 14 minutes. He finished the game with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

"That was terrific," Rivers said of West's debut. "You know, rusty a little bit on the first stint. I thought after halftime he probably got his legs a little bit and he just played terrific. He gives us obviously he gives us offense but he gives us another tough guard on the floor, and that's good for us."

The players agree. Not only does West offer the Celtics versatility by playing both the point and shooting guard, he is also a reliable asset off the bench when the starters need a breather.

"Delonte looked really good," said Kevin Garnett. "We saw him when we got back from the road trip, and you could tell he'd been doing double days. We get the feedback from his work and we're just happy that he was out there. He's going to be big for us, man. We are glad to have him back."

Shaquille O'Neal, who played with West on the Cleveland Cavaliers, considers him a very smart athlete who can be misunderstood at times. O'Neal knows his tenacity and believes he can provide a spark for the Celtics.

"He's been wanting to play for a long time," said O'Neal. "He's been practicing with us. While on the road he's been working out two, three times a day. He's ready, he's going to be focused."

West was so focused on his return, in fact, that he barely slept for three days.

"Last night I stayed up til 3, 4 o'clock in the morning trying to put a nice ensemble together, laying my clothes out on the floor," he said. "I realized, hey get some sleep."

But West doesn't have to rummage through his closet anymore. The outfit that suits him best is hanging in his locker.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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