June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Cavs coach Mike Brown not pleased with West skipping practice

INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers guard Delonte West apparently had a change of heart between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.



A day after saying he felt great and was ready to focus on basketball, West failed to show up for the team’s morning and evening practices at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“Delonte is in Cleveland,” general manager Danny Ferry said Tuesday night in an e-mail. “He is attending to a personal matter.”

Ferry declined further comment.

It’s not known when West — he was arrested in Maryland on weapons charges less than two weeks ago and missed almost two weeks of camp last year while being treated for bipolar disorder — might return to practice.

“Delonte is not here,” coach Mike Brown said after the morning workout. “I’ve got 19 other guys that I have to get ready for the season. Whoever is here, I have to coach.”

West’s absence was unexcused and came one day after he said walking into the team’s training facility was like “a breath of fresh air.”

The 26-year-old was arrested less than two weeks ago in Maryland, his offseason home, after police found him carrying a shotgun, which was in a guitar case strapped on his back, and two loaded handguns. West was driving a three-wheeled motorcycle and, according to reports, was pulled over when he veered in front of a police officer.

The Cavs — minus Delonte West — practice Tuesday. (AP photo.)

The Cavs — minus Delonte West — practice Tuesday. (AP photo.)

West will face weapons charges at a Nov. 20 court date in Maryland. If convicted, he could face jail time. In addition, the Washington, D.C., native will almost certainly be suspended by the NBA, probably for at least five games.

A year ago, with the Cavaliers’ permission, West left the team for almost two weeks in training camp to get treatment for a mood disorder and bouts of depression, which have plagued him since childhood.

On Monday, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard said he was taking his medications and was in a solid frame of mind, but something apparently changed sometime before Cleveland’s first practice.

“This is part of life. This is part of the season,” Brown said. “On a personal note, you always hope anybody you know is doing well. It’s no different for me with him, but I have to continue to look forward and coach this team and not allow us to get sidetracked.”

Nicknamed “Red,” West is extremely popular among his teammates for his crazy dance antics and singing routines, but Brown was not pleased with the veteran’s decision to skip practice.

“Whether it’s Delonte or somebody else, if they miss practice and it’s an unexcused absence, then it will be handled internally,” the coach said.

Despite missing three preseason games last year, West returned and beat out Wally Szczerbiak and Sasha Pavlovic — neither is still with the team — for the starting shooting guard spot. West went on to help the Cavaliers win an NBA-best 66 games in the regular season.

In the playoffs, the versatile West was arguably Cleveland’s second-best player after LeBron James and led the team in minutes played.

With the Cavaliers having signed 6-6 Anthony Parker in free agency, West was going to have a battle on his hands for the starting shooting guard spot under the best of circumstances.

His pending court date, possible suspension and latest disappearing act only increase the chances of Parker taking over in the starting lineup, but that’s something Brown isn’t thinking about right now.

“We have to have a bunker mentality,” the coach said. “The reality of it is — and I’m not just talking about Delonte — with the addition of (Shaquille O’Neal) and the other people we have, there are going to be a lot more distractions.

“We’re human, and sometimes things are going to slip through the cracks, but we have to try as best we can to maintain that bunker mentality by not allowing outside influences to take us off course.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.