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Ball Don't Lie

Delonte West might go to the D-League to get back to the NBA

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Delonte West could soon be coming to a D-League city near you. (Glenn James/NBA/Getty Images)

Coming into this season, Delonte West was expected to play a major role in a rebuilt Dallas Mavericks backcourt that featured new starters at both guard positions. Things went sour just before the start of the campaign, though, with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle suspending West "indefinitely" after a preseason outburst, reinstating him the next day after hashing things out, only to put him back on ice eight days later for "conduct detrimental to the team." The second shelving stuck, as the Mavs waived West four days later to open up a roster spot for, of all people, center Eddy Curry. (That marriage didn't last too long.)

We haven't heard much from West since; since Halloween, when he laid out his resume for prospective NBA suitors, West has tweeted just once — to share a bulletin about Carlisle threatening other Mavs with suspensions, a sort of "I'm just going to leave this right here" tweet without any added commentary. The quiet on the West-ern front (oof) broke this week, though, with the Memphis Grizzlies reportedly considering a 10-day contract offer for West to fill out their roster following Tuesday's multiplayer deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Wednesday night, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the combo guard's hedging his bets a bit by entering the player pool for the D-League in the hopes, it seems, of getting back to the league by mending some Lone Star fences:

[...] if the Grizzlies pass, West would be eligible to join the team at the front of the D-League waiver line, which sources say is the Donnie Nelson-owned Texas Legends, Frisco-based affiliate of the Mavericks.

Sources say that West hopes to play his way back into the league just like Mike James did earlier this month, earning a call-up from the Mavericks after a brief but successful stint in Frisco. James is nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Mavs and, according sources, is a strong possibility to be signed for the rest of the season next week.

A source close to West told Jeff "Skin" Wade of the Ben and Skin Show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM that the guard prefers a potential situation with the Legends to the Grizzlies scenario in hopes that a good showing with the D-League team could put him back into favor with the Mavs, who released him before the regular season began.

It's interesting that the 29-year-old St. Joe's product would prefer a minor-league gig in Frisco to a pro opportunity in Memphis. While he didn't end things on terms with Dallas, he is, after all, an eight-year NBA veteran who's proven himself a potential asset to good teams. And while nothing's guaranteed on a 10-day deal, his combination of ball-handling skill, outside shooting accuracy, tough defense on both ones and twos, and hard-nosed demeanor would seem like a perfect fit for a Grizzlies team with a well-established grit-grind culture and, as laid bare in their recent swoon, a desperate need for both floor-spacing and punch off the bench.

Then again, a stint with the Legends — who, as Keith Schlosser notes at D-League blog Ridiculous Upside, have been very friendly to ex-NBA players in the past, with the likes of James and Chris Douglas-Roberts parlaying stops there into appearances with the Mavs this year — might offer West a chance to get things right in Dallas, where they went weirdly wrong very quickly this fall.

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West may view a D-League stint as the first step to mending fences in Dallas. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBA/Getty)

The situation was clearly an emotional one for West. After his second suspension, West unloaded like someone with a broken heart, chastising the Mavericks for "kick[ing] me in my ass on the way out the door," saying he loved the city of Dallas and claiming to be writing "sittin here across from the arena wit tear in my eyes [sic]." (Part of what made it so emotional, perhaps, was the repeated insinuation that bipolar disorder — a condition with which West deals, which was a key factor in his 2009 arrest for carrying multiple firearms while riding a motorcycle and about which he has openly talked in the past — had something to do with his preseason "outbursts," a claim West repeatedly denied.)

Prior to the preseason drama, West had carved out a niche as a reliable contributor for the Mavs under Carlisle, and seemed to feel close to the team; upon his reinstatement after the first suspension, he spoke of the Mavericks as "a real family" and jokingly called Carlisle "Uncle Ricky." If West views a trip to the D-League as a chance to, in effect, apologize for whatever went wrong and try to get back to the "family" from which he was excised back in October, and if Nelson's willing to let bygones be bygones for a trial run, then that's great; but if the Legends pass on bringing West in, here's hoping another D-League squad takes the chance and West seizes that opportunity, too. Delonte's too fiery, too competitive, too good and too entertaining to stay out of our NBA (or NBA-adjacent) lives much longer.

Also, we'd like to see Delonte on the Legends because it'd mean pairing him with Rashad McCants, whom Stein reported the Legends were interested in bringing back and whose signing was made official on Thursday morning. That'd be a pretty talented, pretty fun, pretty offbeat backcourt worth checking out on YouTube.

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