This is a series focusing on Dallas Mavericks of the past and how they're using the Las Vegas Summer League to try to extend their careers.
LAS VEGAS -- Now with a clear mind, a positive outlook on life and a new baby, former Dallas Mavericks guard Delonte West is playing in the Las Vegas Summer League.
West, who turns 31 this month, doesn't look at the time in Vegas as hitting the restart button. He's using it as an opportunity to do the thing he loves and to help young players as they try to chase their dream.
"It should be a celebration for these young fellas. They're trying to compete for a jobs and trying to make a roster," West said. "This is a big step. Summer league is just one step closer. I know how important it is to be confident and comfortable out there to display your skill level. This isn't a big fraternity. I'm helping all of the young guys out if I can."
West said his conditioning and weight have been an issue, but he gained a "good five pounds" with a good steak thanks to some per diem from the Los Angeles Clippers, the team he's playing for during the summer league, earlier in the week. West said summer league is an opportunity for anyone who is geared toward playing in the NBA, even the veterans, as long as they have the right perspective.
"It's basketball, man," West said with a laugh. "Summer league could be so much bigger than it already it is if some of the veteran guys came out and played. A lot of veteran guys or guys who are lined up with a contract don't want to shoot themselves in the foot out there, but it's great basketball.
"Take your shades off, take your chain off, put your car in the garage and come play some basketball."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers gave West another chance with the summer league invitation and said that it has been great to see him out playing basketball again.
"It wasn't hard," Rivers said on the process of having West come to Las Vegas. "He called me, and I said yes. That's how it happened. He called me up and asked if I had any problem playing on the summer league team, because it would help. I said yes.
"He's a good guy. We know all the personal stuff that he's gone through. I just think it's good for everybody."
After one season with Dallas, West was waived in October 2012 after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. He was looking for more stability in terms of a contract, something above the league minimum. With that not available, things turned sour in Dallas. Even though it didn't work out, West respects and admires Dallas' organization and owner Mark Cuban.
"Mr. Cuban has been more than a mentor, a father figure in my life," West said. "He's been very helpful to me. Even when I left, he would still call on me and check on me. That's really cool."
West flourished during a one-year stint in the Chinese Basketball Association and is now looking for another opportunity in the NBA. With multiple teams and coaches watching him, it appears he could find a new home if things work out just right.
Basketball is about execution and improvement, but maturity and growth are huge factors as well.
"That's a part of the game. The life game for me," West said. "It was great going out there, going and growing up. Put the toys behind me. Growing up and being a man, sometimes it's hard to accept the things you have to do and take the trash out. But that's what going away for me did."
Now with perspective and time for reflection on how things went in Dallas, West is centered and finally able to discuss his mental health issues without embarrassment.
"I understood it," West said in regard to how things ended in Dallas. "It's hard to accept at first. As a man, I had let immaturities go, fight the battle of bipolar disorder to keep on going and step up to the play, step up and take responsibility for my actions. If that caused me to step up, then, man, a lot of guys need to take a year off and go somewhere. I'm very grateful for that."
West is looking to get back into the league, but some goals have already been reached.
"It's already been a success," West said of merely playing in the summer league. "I got an opportunity to put a jersey on and be back in the fraternity. The chance to get up there and get some NBA bump, hey, anytime you’ve got a jersey on -- it don't matter who you're playing for -- you're there. You've got a Clippers jersey on.
"This is big for me and my family. We're going to celebrate. It's one step to more steps."