Practice notes: Temper trap

Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston

Tempers flared for Delonte West and Von Wafer in a 2-on-2 practice battle.WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics practiced Sunday afternoon at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint:


While Shaquille O'Neal sat entertaining a horde of reporters with a steady stream of witty one-liners, things were decidedly testier at the other end of the practice gym.

After the Celtics completed an abbreviated session, a handful of players were brought together for some 2-on-2 exercises with Delonte West and Semih Erden squaring off against Von Wafer and Luke Harangody.

Things got a bit heated when West, displaying his usual full-throttle style, worked over Wafer for consecutive baskets. With Wafer agitated, West shouted twice, "Do something about it." West then went right back at Wafer, aggressively trying to back him down before assistant coach Lawrence Frank called a foul, attempting to prevent things from escalating further.

West again told Wafer to "do something about it," with a not-so complimentary description tagged on at the end. That's when Jermaine O'Neal stepped in, along with Frank, who reminded the players to cool it with the media present. Wafer ultimately retreated to the locker room.

It should be stressed that these types of flare-ups aren't exactly unusual. These are 15 players who have essentially been battling each other every day for a month in preparation for the regular season (with eight cupcake preseason games mixed in). Kevin Garnett often notes how tempers flare and coach Doc Rivers often allows his troops to sort things out on their own. Cooler heads almost always prevail.

"What I love about Doc is that he doesn't mind us being competitive, as long as we don't go off on our own and become a tropical storm," Garnett said during training camp last month. "He lets us be who we are and it does get testy and very competitive in here. He lets us go as long as we're getting something done and working toward our goals."

If anything, Sunday's brief dust-up shows the C's are ready for the regular season and eager to see jerseys that are something other than green and white. It also shows how intense the Celtics are, even during what was supposed to be a breezy Sunday session.

West admitted last week that an extended absence from a left glute injury has pushed him to the back of the depth chart, with Wafer assuming the reserve shooting guard role as West serves a 10-game suspension to start the season. In fact, one could make the case that Wafer remains on the roster in large part because of West's impending suspension.

West, who can often be seen coaching emphatically from the sideline when the starters and reserves lock horns in 5-on-5 work, appeared to be pushing Wafer to improve his level of play, while reminding him of the pecking order when West returns Nov. 17.

In the end, it might be a greater concern if the team skated through practice each day without showing a little fire. Competition almost always brings out the best in players.


Outside of those 2-on-2 battles, the Celtics didn't engage in much contact Sunday, running through their skeleton offense and defensive sets with eyes toward getting the new faces -- particularly Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal -- ready for the start of the season.

"We didn't do much today, really," said Rivers. "I went back and forth on giving them the day off or just getting them to run through some stuff. We did a lot of skeleton today, very little contact. We're just going over our defensive schemes. For us, not having [Kendrick Perkins], we don't have that normal starting five like usual, and we have to really teach. Our [new] guys don’t have it yet, so every day we can be together is good.

"[The new players] just have to get it. Unfortunately for Shaq and J.O., they were injured a lot. When a player plays, you want them to play on instinct. The offense and defense you're running, you hope it's second nature, but it's not there right now. That's why we're working on it."


The Celtics have altered rookie Avery Bradley's workload to allow his surgically repaired left ankle to strengthen and eliminate the soreness he has felt since getting cleared to return to action.

That has meant no contact for the rookie, who appeared in three preseason games, but only saw one quarter of action, logging 12 minutes in his NBA debut against Philadelphia.

"We have cut back and tried another approach to it," said Rivers. "I think he's going to be a really good player. I just don't know how long it's going to take. It's tough for a rookie to not play at all. Think about it, he hasn't had training camp, he hasn't had multiple games -- he only played one quarter in Philly where you saw what he could bring on defense. Other than that [he hasn't been able to stay on the floor.]"