Delonte West quickly worked out his differences with Mavericks
coach Rick Carlisle. (Greg Nelson/SI)
By Rob Mahoney
The speed and simplification of the NBA news cycle have a way of making something out of nothing. Headlines fire through the ticker constantly without the slightest pause for consideration, and as a result, important disclaimers and clarification often go unsaid.
That was largely the case with the seemingly random news that the Dallas Mavericks had suspended guard Delonte West after a preseason game against the Houston Rockets, though not entirely at the fault of the media machine. The Mavericks gave as little information as possible, and as a result, this unexpected occurrence became another line in West's complicated bio rather than a situation put in context. That's the peril in dealing with these sorts of things in-house, but the Mavericks saw fit to address the situation immediately and prevent what's assumed to be a minor incident from becoming anything more.
Just as quickly as he was suspended, West was reinstated and the air was cleared. Per West, via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com, all is good between him and coach Rick Carlisle:
Not to oversimplify the situation, but this is exactly the kind of response necessary when employing a player with unique mental health considerations. West's bipolar disorder is entirely manageable in the right context. It may make him prone to an unfavorable reaction (as could have been the case on Monday) and it may add a dash of unpredictability to an already wild personality, but it's nothing that a well-run organization can't handle through communication and being proactive. Carlisle and West made an effort to reconcile before a non-issue became an issue, and now the Mavericks will be able to sweep all of this under the rug before the preseason wraps.
All of this is evidence of an incredibly thoughtful approach not at all dissimilar from what rookie Royce White is looking to establish with the Houston Rockets. Every player is different. Some need to walk through a play before they understand it. Some need to be told by their coaching staff just how valuable they are. Some need to block out distractions off the court. Some need to ride buses to games, and some need a coach willing to meet them halfway.
The best franchises understand this, and one can tell from Carlisle's previous comments about West (via Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas) that the Mavericks are clearly in the know:
"I love him as a kid," Carlisle said a couple of weeks ago. "I love the fact that he faces challenges day to day and he meets them head on and he's honest. He and I talk a lot. It's a relationship that isn't always smelling like roses, but we manage to grow because we're talking all the time.
"It's important that I always hear what he has to say because he's a knowledgeable guy. Sometimes he's got to listen to me. Sometimes he's not crazy about it, but that's just the way it is."
Those with diagnosed disorders may seem like extreme cases, but this is simply a player and coach getting on the same page. That's all it is and that's all it takes.