Does Delonte West's Suspension Expose Dallas Mavericks Locker-Room Discord?
Delonte West is still on extended leave from the team after being suspended for the second time in less than a month. After what a statement from general manager Donnie Nelson called "conduct detrimental to the team," West is now facing being cut from the team by Monday night's deadline.
Both suspensions apparently had something to do with locker-room incidents. The first one involved West starting an outburst on Oct. 15, but it was unclear what his issue was with the rest of the team. This time, he was apparently breaking up a teammates' fight when he was pegged as the real issue.
As reported by Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, West recalled the issue much differently than the way the team portrayed his dismissal.
"There was an argument between two teammates in the locker room last night that didn't involve me... I'm being blamed for it. I had nothing to do with it. I don't know what's going on."
The statement falls in line with what West later posted on his Twitter account.
Just ask u to talk with me....I'm a grown man...that's not above logic and reason...Before u go to the papers wit false information.— Delonte West (@CharleeRedz13) October 25, 2012
The following tweet does have some inappropriate language in it, as a warning to those reading who might not want to see such a thing.
If I'm not what u lookin 4 ....That's fine...just don't kick me in my ass on the way out the door....I didn't do anything to deserve that...— Delonte West (@CharleeRedz13) October 25, 2012
This whole West scandal begs the question: Is there something worse brewing in a locker room that includes nine (with the addition of Eddy Curry) new faces on this roster?
Veteran guard Vince Carter's comments about West are particularly troubling, considering at the time of his statement, West hadn't officially been let go by the team. It's almost as if he knew something the rest of the media did not.
“We’re losing a competitor. He’s a competitor. We all know that. You just hate to see everybody going through their differences, because that’s one guy you can rely on.”
Shawn Marion's statement about West also seems to let slip some sort of tell. Do you wish a teammate the best if you are confident he can return and help the team out?
“He’s a hell of a player. I wish him the best. He’s got some stuff to work out with [management and coach Rick Carlisle].”
It all spells trouble for Dallas, and if you combine those statements with some obvious facts about the makeup of this team, it's not hard to see that Dallas has more turmoil than we all thought when the season began.
For starters, this group is comprised of guys that all have something to prove. Aside from Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, none of the other players on the roster have an NBA championship ring.
While it's great that they are hungry, most of the players Dallas signed are living paycheck to paycheck. A byproduct of owner Mark Cuban's strategy to keep his team under the cap, Dallas is surviving on short-term contracts that all expire at similar times. It's supposed to help the Mavs be players in summer free agency but has thus far not been successful.
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Even in the frontcourt, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand are revisiting their days as a duo in Los Angeles, and aside from one playoff appearance, there can't be too many happy memories from playing for Donald Sterling during those years.
Injuries have also forced players who wouldn't normally be counted on into a more substantial role. Both Nowitzki and Kaman are on the shelf right now, and the Mavericks signed Eddy Curry off the street to be their starting center in the interim.
Carter and Marion can't love it that rookie Jae Crowder has come in and basically forced his way into the rotation after an impressive summer league and preseason performance. That will cut into the playing time of both, and sometimes it's hard for veterans to pass the torch when they feel good basketball is still in them.
Even Nowitzki's comments about his injury beg questions about how much trust and admiration there is inside this locker room. Dirk has always been as fun-loving and jovial in interviews as the next guy, but his latest comments border crossing the line.
“The boys need to find a way to win some games, sometimes with defense, win some ugly games. But definitely find a way to win some games and play some decent basketball until I come back.”
Nowitzki is one of the best of all time. The numbers and MVPs prove that. But for Dirk, a player that knows the value of team chemistry and good relationships with teammates, to say something like that, you'd have to hedge your bets on something else being wrong that isn't seen by the cameras.
As it is now, West will likely be the scapegoat for the team's early communication struggles. The team has noted they think he's a bad influence on younger players, and that could be enough to warrant cutting him to get the roster down to 15 players.
With Nowitzki and Kaman still out with an injury, it makes sense to keep Eddy Curry, also. Young guards Beaubois and Jared Cunningham need playing time, so getting rid of the veteran West might be the best move for the future of their development.
The Mavs open the season on Tuesday against the Western Conference favorites, the Los Angeles Lakers. We'll find out very quickly where the psyche of this team is, particularly when the Lakers go on a mini-run and the team is forced to make adjustments, not point fingers.
As it is right now, I have a bad feeling that the finger-pointing will win.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for the Dallas Mavericks and member of Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team.
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