INDEPENDENCE — Longtime St. Joseph’s University men’s basketball coach Phil Martelli is “worried” and “concerned” about former player Delonte West.
“He needs help,” Martelli said in a phone interview when asked about the Cavaliers guard, who Wednesday missed his second set of two-a-day practices at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I can only pray. He is as driven as anybody I’ve ever been around on the basketball court, and I know the Cavaliers are there to support him. I hope he’ll extend his hand and accept their support.
“I’m worried,” the veteran coach added. “To me, there’s something going on that can be seen only when you’re walking in his skin, only when you’re walking in his shoes.”
The Cavaliers are saying only that West is dealing with a “personal matter,” but coach Mike Brown confirmed the guard’s absence is unexcused and he’s being fined.
“We’re all concerned about Delonte,” Brown said. “He’s part of our family here. In the same breath, we all get paid to do a job.”
General manager Danny Ferry is the only member of the organization known to have spoken with West, who is believed to still be in the Cleveland area.
West attended Media Day on Monday and said he felt great and was ready to focus on basketball, but has already missed four practices. A single workout is slated for today.
A year ago, West missed almost two weeks of training camp while being treated for bipolar disorder, but that absence came with the Cavaliers’ full support.
“We’ve been around this block before with Delonte,” small forward LeBron James said. “We know how to handle it.”
Neither James nor point guard Mo Williams had spoken to West as of Wednesday afternoon, but both expressed support for the 26-year-old.
Two weeks ago, West was arrested on weapons charges in Maryland after he was pulled over for a traffic violation on his three-wheeled motorcycle. He was found with a shotgun, which he had in a guitar case strapped on his back, and two loaded handguns.
West faces a Nov. 20 court date in Maryland and probable suspension from the NBA, but right now the Cavaliers would just like to have him on the practice floor.
“We would love to see him back in the gym,” James said. “We understand how important he is to our team.
“We’re going to give him a little bit of room and let him clear his mind,” he added. “When he gets back, we’ll reach out to him.”
Williams, who started in the backcourt with West last season on a team that won an NBA-best 66 games, said the guard is “seeking professional help” and the players “support him 110 percent.”
“When he comes back, we’re going to welcome him with open arms,” Williams said.
Asked if West’s absence was a distraction to the team, Williams said, “I don’t think Delonte will ever be a distraction to us. We as a team and organization fully understand the situation.”
Martelli, who keeps in contact with the vast majority of his former players, has attempted to “reach out” to West, but hadn’t made contact with him as of late Wednesday afternoon.
The veteran coach, who was in Cleveland for Game 2 of the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference final series with Orlando last season, said “nothing alarming” happened during West’s three years at St. Joseph’s. Martelli added he had no knowledge West was bipolar while the guard was at the school.
“He was driven by basketball when he was with us,” Martelli said. “If I was coming back from a speaking engagement and saw the lights on in the field house, I knew it was him.
“He’s zany enough, but if you’re paying attention, you know he’s leading you on. He’s zany, but in a good way.”
While that is part of West’s outgoing, fun-loving personality, the guard’s recent actions are a concern to his college coach.
“It’s like my own child,” Martelli said. “You go through the trials and tribulations, the sleepless nights, the wondering if they’re all right.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. West fails to show again; college coach concerned