Delonte West is completely unique in every conceivable way. Beyond his personality, though, West’s life has some equally unique — at least by NBA standards — challenges; West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a fact which became public in the aftermath of a pretty bizarre incident involving West, a motorcycle, and three guns.
The memory of that event is easy to recall. After all, West was arrested just prior to this season, and the details are certainly memorable. His arrest and his diagnosis, though, have slipped out of NBA consciousness without incident. There hasn’t been a series of Pullitzer-winning pieces about West’s struggle with his disorder and daily victories in spite of it. It’s not because those victories and struggles aren’t there, but because West and the Cleveland Cavaliers have handled West’s specific case perfectly.
The Cavs, who look to continue their eight-game winning streak when they close their trip against the San Antonio Spurs tonight, have enjoyed plenty of successes during this season. But perhaps a major, if overlooked, accomplishment is the team effort that has helped West become more balanced emotionally. That includes work West has done himself.
…The team has constantly protected West, who has declined all interviews since media day in September. There is little or no talk of his ongoing battle with a mood disorder, which West has said is bi-polar disorder. There is no mention of West’s pending court case in Maryland on gun charges. Just a quiet but diligent following of a process that West’s teammates, West’s doctors and West himself follow on a daily basis.
…West still has rough days and there almost certainly with be more to come. But getting West mostly stabilized and playing well again has so far been a remarkable accomplishment by a wide range of team officials and doctors.
That includes the management done by general manager Danny Ferry, head coach Mike Brown and his assistant coaches, athletic trainer Max Benton, director of team security Marvin Cross and several other doctors and therapists who have worked with West privately on an intense level.
“He’s got a nice support staff around him,” Brown said. “Including some other people behind the scenes. There’s a lot of support there for him and there will continue to be. He’s a part of our family and we take a lot of pride in trying to take care of everybody.”
There have been plenty of situations where NBA teams appear to mishandle atypical situations, but the Cavs not only appear to be reacting appropriately in terms of giving West the support he needs, but also in protecting him from extended media coverage. There will eventually be a day for West’s story to be documented, and to an extent it already is. But the additional probing and questioning that comes with significant media coverage probably isn’t something West needs to be dealing with right now. Thanks to the Cavs’ understanding of the situation, he doesn’t have to.