Delonte One of Many at the Point

October 26, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Delonte West is an actions-speak-louder-than-words kind of guy. When he talks, you must lean in to hear what he says. He usually makes a perceptive point about the game or his play, but he never elaborates.

It's almost as though West views talking as a waste of energy. Maybe he worries that talking too much will take away from his trademark intensity.

West half-jokes that he's good at hand signals and facial expressions, though it's hard to distinguish between his happy face and his angry face.

At any other position, such quiet and complete focus probably would be a coach's dream. But not for the player who appears to have a lock on the Celtics' starting point guard job with one exhibition game remaining.

Coach Doc Rivers has few complaints about the way West runs the team, while recognizing that the second-year guard still has a lot to learn. Rivers wishes most that West would communicate better on the court, that he relax a little and talk to his teammates more.

And West may be working to develop a more loquacious nature. When asked about the subject, he was unusually expansive.

"I guess he wants me to be more vocal out there with the team, let them know what we're in, make sure we're always on the same page," said West.

"I'm just an extension of him out there the court.

"I actually think I do a good job of communicating with my teammates. I might give a little whisper at one point. But I have eye contact with my teammates about what we're in.

"We already know what we're in when we're coming down the court and coach is yelling, 'Slice.'

"But [I have to talk more] on the defensive end also. Point guards usually cut to the corner, so I guess he wants me to direct the defense a little more."

Despite an injury to Marcus Banks (stress fracture, left tibia) and the waiving of Will Bynum yesterday, there remains ample competition at point guard, and West is understandably eager to make improvements. West must stay ahead of not only veteran Dan Dickau, but also rookie Orien Greene. It is worth noting that Greene was the first point guard off the bench last night when the Celtics lost to the Nets, 118-116, in overtime at Continental Airlines Arena.

Once again, Greene supplied a Ricky Davis-like energy to the second unit. Dickau did not see action until the second half.

"Starting, coming off the bench what does it mean?" said West. "It just means they called your name first. We've all still got to go out there and win the game. If you're starting and you're not doing your job, what does that mean?"

Rivers essentially used a nine-man rotation against New Jersey, bringing Greene, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, and Brian Scalabrine off the bench. Starters Davis, West, Paul Pierce, Mark Blount, and Raef LaFrentz logged close to regular-season minutes in a game that was tightly contested through the first half.

The Nets' starting lineup was almost at full strength, missing just Jason Collins, who underwent right knee surgery in the offseason.

Last season, West proved he could produce wins, guiding the Celtics to a 6-1 record when in the starting lineup. He has started four of the five exhibition games in which he has played.

The Dickau experiment lasted two games, though it likely would have been one if West had not twisted his right ankle and decided not to play against Toronto Oct. 14.

And that brings up the other knock against West. Is he too fragile?

He missed most of his rookie season with injuries. First it was a broken right thumb. Then, almost as soon as he returned, he broke his right fourth metacarpal in a freak fall at Miami.

While starting may not matter to West, he needs to stay on the court and make up for the time he missed last year.

He understands what Rivers wants done on the court. He has made a concerted effort to establish the pace of the game from the opening tip, and to get the ball down the floor and the Celtics into their running game.

"When everyone is running, we're playing veteran Celtics basketball and we're hard to stop," said West.

And that sounds like something West would like to talk about.

Pierce will be honored at the Hall of Fame on Saturday with the dedication of a locker that displays memorabilia highlighting his on- and off-the-court achievements.

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