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

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

BOSTON -- While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed. 

“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke. 

Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City. 

Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week. 

“I can’t wait,” he said. 

Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft. 

Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics. 

“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”

And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA. 

“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder . . . we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”

Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown. 

“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps. 

Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”

While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other. 

“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:

“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”

One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude. 

Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs. 

“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”

And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce. 

“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”

Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce. 

Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task. 

But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren. 

Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.

“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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0:41 - Tom Curran, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul and how that trade can actually have an affect on the Celtics plans.

5:06 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to talk about if the Celtics are the front runners for Paul George, what would be too much to give up to the Pacers, and why it’s important to sign Hayward before trading for George.

11:21 - Evan Drellich joins from Fenway Park to discuss Rick Porcello getting his 10th loss of the season and if the struggling offense might be a season-long problem. 

14:58 - Tom Curran and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Nate Burleson saying that Julian Edelman is the most under-appreciated receiver in the last 10 years.