EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Delonte West in China

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Delonte West enters a cold arena in the West end of China’s capital city, Beijing.

West wastes no time preparing his gear to get out on the floor and warm up. He is the first one out there. He holds his follow through on his left-handed jump shot longer than usual. He holds it high, swish! swish! swish!.

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He starts from mid-range and works his way back to the three-point line where one of his Chinese teammates pokes the ball away from him. West and his Chinese teammate engage in a conversation. They start joking around with each other. The entire team is on floor. The game is about to begin. West is showing a teammate the footwork on his step back jump shot as they walk back to the bench.

The team gathers around the head coach who goes against starting West.

The game tips-off and West is watching from the bench. Observing the game like a scientist looking into a microscope, West examines every shot, every pass and every rebound. If there was a poster child for tonight’s ‘game-face’, it’s got to be Delonte West of the Fujian Sturgeons.

An entire quarter passes and West, the nine-year NBA veteran from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt Maryland, has yet to check into the game.

Is he angry? nope. Does he look frustrated? not at all.

It’s Valentines Day, and West is with his lifelong love, basketball.

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When he checks into the game at the beginning of the second quarter, his team looks fired up and ready to go.

West is up against another NBA veteran. An NBA veteran whom West famously battled against during his days in Boston. It’s Beijing Ducks all-star point guard Stephon Marbury. In a smart and tactical move, Marbury’s coach, coach Min, moves Marbury to shooting guard to avoid a West vs. Marbury matchup (saving Marbury’s legs for the playoffs).

A meaningless game but West is out there putting on a show for the fans. Dribble right, crosses over left, fakes the drive, pulls the ball back with one hand and sticks the lefty fadeaway.

His team would fall five points shy of the win but West’s 23 points and 17 rebounds was impressive.

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For a guy who was benched the entire first quarter to come out and have a game like that was remarkable. He was never angry with his coach, never turning his back teammates.

“Honestly Delonte is great guy. I’ve spent an entire season with him and he’s just a great guy to be around. His teammates love him, the fans love him,” says Alex, a Fujian Sturgeon trainer.

On Feb. 7, 2014, West and the Fujian Sturgeons suffered a one-point loss to Donnell Harvey’s Shandong Bulls. During the finals seconds of the game West had the ball in his hands, when he went to make a move the ball fumbled out of his hands causing a turnover and a Shandong victory.

Delonte’s coach was furious. In fact, he was so angry with West who has averaged 22 points, five assists and five rebounds that he told him to get out of China.

West and the Sturgeons would work something out. West never left China.

You can knock him down, but you can’t knock him out.

Only two days later and West returned to the play for the coach that knocked him down, but not out.

Was West angry? nope. Did he look frustrated? nope.

What happened on Feb. 9, 2014 was something so surreal, you couldn’t have described West’s ‘never give up’ attitude even if you tried. On Fujian’s home floor, West lead his team to one of the wildest victories in all of his years as a basketball player. A 178-177 five-overtime win. He dropped 37-points shooting 67 per cent from the field, he grabbed eight rebounds and dished out 11 assists.

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You talk about a real statement from a guy who just loves to play basketball.

West has overcome a lot of adversity throughout his career. He continues to play basketball at a high level.

Now at 30 years old, West is a proud father as well as a proud husband. West says he’s been getting a lot of interest from NBA teams as the Chinese season ends this week. he calls his time in China an experience of a lifetime.

“I want to be back in the NBA but if I don’t, I know I’ll always have a home in Fujian,” says West.

 

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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