The Dallas Mavericks were already facing an uphill chemistry battle with the additions of several key pieces this summer.
That hill just got a little steeper.
Backup guard Delonte West hasn't had an entirely spotless record over the course of his eight-year career, but his first season with the Mavs in 2011-12 was actually pretty spotless. Hopefully, the team enjoyed it while it lasted.
ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon reports that the Mavericks have suspended the 29-year-old indefinitely, apparently pursuant to the kind of locker room episode the team is looking to do without:
Sources told ESPNDallas.com that West's suspension stems at least in part from an outburst in the locker room after the Mavs' 123-104 preseason win Monday over the Houston Rockets. He had 2 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound in 16 minutes during the win.
Details are obviously scarce at the moment, but it's hard to imagine that West's frustration stemmed from anything legitimate. It's not like the Mavs lost. This was presumably no time for some kind of righteous indignation aimed at rallying the troops.
So while it's a matter of speculation, you'd think the impetus for the "outburst" had more to do with something relatively trivial and/or self-centered. If so, that's automatically bad news for a club that won its 2011 championship with a team-first attitude—an attitude that translated into unselfish offense and one of the best defensive units in the league.
Who knows what was going through West's head, but there's usually some truth in that formal terminology attached to these suspensions: "conduct detrimental to the team."
And whatever his motivation, the last thing that Dallas needs is a distraction. Dirk Nowitzki is staring down the possibility of surgery, and there are a lot of new faces in this locker room, a locker room that reasoned to be a tad awkward on Monday.
What should Dallas do with West?
Chris Kaman and Elton Brand have some experience playing with one another on the Los Angeles Clippers, but they'll still take some time adjusting to the new squad. It's not entirely clear if they'll spend all that much time on the court with one another given that Kaman will start and Brand won't (unless Dirk is sidelined, of course).
Meanwhile, Dallas' starting backcourt features newcomers Darren Collison at the point and O.J. Mayo as the shooting guard.
Ideally, West would be in a position to help both guards grow accustomed to Rick Carlisle's system. He's capable of playing both guard positions, and he spent last season playing under the coach.
On the court, West's services would come in handy too. He's a good perimeter defender, and he's adept at scoring from mid-range. With spark plug Rodrigue Beaubois temporarily sidelined by a sprained ankle, West becomes all the more valuable.
At this very moment, the only guard who has spent an entire season in Dallas' backcourt is Vince Carter, more of a wing player than a guy who is going to run the offense.
Given this rotation options (or lack thereof), the team can ill-afford West's absence. Of course, if living without him is better than living with him at this point, perhaps that says even more about the club's current predicament.
Mark Cuban has always been a master of getting the rosters he wants, and this summer was—but for one glaring exception—more of the same.
But the talent on this particular roster won't count for much if these guys don't form a bond and prepare for the war known as the postseason. If West isn't prepared to advance that process, the Mavericks are clearly prepared to move on without him.