By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON During a rare Boston Celtics practice recently, there was a familiar face on the floor: Delonte West.
When West returns to action and all indications are that it will be sometime next month the Celtics will gradually phase him in.
But it won't be long before he's playing his usual minutes.
When that happens, somebody's minutes are going to be cut.
And when you look at this Celtics' roster, it's quite obvious that the most likely candidate is Nate Robinson.
He did a solid job early on filling in for Rajon Rondo as a starter.
But Robinson's play has taken a step back in recent weeks, making it more likely that West will eventually become a backup to Rondo and, potentially, Ray Allen.
At 6-foot-3, West gives the Celtics a bigger player who is also more versatile.
West, who suffered a broken right wrist injury on Nov. 24, can play both guard positions. And depending on the opponent and the lineup on the floor, he could give the C's some minutes at the small forward position as well.
But aside from his physical attributes, West provides a certain toughness to the C's bench that's unmatched among Boston's backups.
West getting minutes over Robinson should not be viewed as Robinson being a bad player or anything like that.
Actually, it says more about the C's depth than it does about Robinson.
THE BIG FOUR
The All-Star Game will be here in a couple weeks, and the Boston Celtics are sure to be well represented.
Boston should lead all teams with at least four players selected.
If you've paid attention to the Eastern Conference this season, it's clear Rajon Rondo has established himself as one of the NBA's top point guards.
To the casual fan, any top-five list of point guards this season has to include Rondo, who is the NBA's assists leader with 12.9 per game.
He'll also be joined by Kevin Garnett, who has regained his '08 form. He missed nine games because of a muscle strain in his lower right leg, but has returned to action and appears well on his way to getting back to where he was this season prior to the injury.
Paul Pierce is a definite All-Star this season. In fact, one can argue that of all the seasons Pierce has been named to the All-Star team, this might be his most impressive season.
His scoring average doesn't overwhelm you.
But when you look at how efficient he has been, which is rare for a high-volume shooter so advanced into their career, there's no doubt he has been one of the top two or three small forwards in the East this season.
And last but certainly not least, you have Ray Allen.
At 35 years old, it's amazing how well Allen has played in helping lead the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Like Pierce, Allen has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts this season.
On track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made this season, Allen is also shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from 3-point range.
When you look at what they've done, coupled with the Celtics success this season, it's a no-brainer.
Boston's Big Four will be all-stars next month.
FLIP (THE SWITCH) MODE?
After a recent loss at Washington, it brought back memories of last season when there were far too many losses to bad teams by Boston.
When the season ended, C's players bemoaned how those setbacks cost them home-court advantage throughout most of the playoffs, including the NBA Finals.
This season, 5 of the C's 10 losses have been to teams at or below-.500.
But there is a difference with this year.
Those losses, if anything, seem to re-focus this team on what they have to do in order to be successful.
Following a loss to Cleveland early in the season, Boston reeled off five straight wins.
And after a one-point loss at Toronto, the C's got Jalapeo-hot by winning 14 straight.
The Celtics had two sets of back-to-back losses, and ran off winning streaks of five and four games, respectively.
So as disappointing as it might have seemed to lose to the woeful Wizards, just remember.
Such losses should not be seen as trouble.
Instead, they serve as a heads-up that the C's are about to start rolling over teams and a nice winning streak is coming.