Danny Ainge acknowledged that trading Delonte West was one of the hardest decisions he's made as Boston's president of basketball operations, but three years later he's hoping West, like the players he was swapped for did in 2008, can help bring the team a championship.
Ainge confirmed Wednesday that the Celtics have signed West, adding the 6-foot-4 free-agent guard to Boston's impressive offseason haul.
The Boston Herald first reported the agreement.
"He was one of the toughest guys for me to trade," said Ainge, who sent West, Wally Szczerbiak, the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft (Jeff Green), and a 2008 second-round pick (Trent Plaisted) to Seattle in exchange for Ray Allen and the No. 32 pick in the 2007 draft (Glen Davis).
"I'd do it again, of course, but we really liked Delonte when he was here. Even though we knew the issues and the challenges he needed to take care of, we also think Delonte is in a better place today than he was the day he left. He wasn't perfect, but we still liked the player."
The Celtics selected West 24th overall in the 2004 NBA draft, the middle of three first-round picks that included Al Jefferson (15th overall) and Tony Allen (25th overall). He spent three seasons in Boston, averaging a career-high 12.2 points, along with 4.4 assists and 3 rebounds per game during the 2006-07 season (starting 47 of the 69 games he appeared in).
He was dealt that offseason, a key chip in what started the uniting of the new Big Three. While Allen and Davis have helped Boston to a pair of appearances in the NBA Finals and one title, West didn't last a season in Seattle, being sent to Cleveland in a three-way deal at the 2008 trade deadline.
West spent the last two-plus seasons -- seasons marred by off-the-court troubles -- with the Cavaliers, saving his finest efforts for the 2008-09 postseason before losing his starting job last year. Cleveland traded West to the Minnesota Timberwolves last month and he was waived soon after.
Ainge said Boston had West on its radar from the moment he got dealt from Cleveland. While Ainge wouldn't comment on terms of the deal or if it is guaranteed, West is likely to garner the veteran minimum -- the most Boston could offer -- which for a sixth-year player is little more than $1 million. If it's a one-year deal, the league will pay a portion of that salary, so Boston will only be on the hook for the salary of a two-year veteran, which is $854,000.
Should he make the opening day roster, West will be ineligible for the first 10 games of the regular season after being suspended by the league following a guilty plea on weapons charges in the state of Maryland in July. He'd be available for the Celtics' 11th game, a Nov. 17 visit from the Washington Wizards.
Ainge acknowledged the baggage that comes with West, but said he thinks he's returning to a positive situation with a team that will welcome him with open arms.
"There's a familiarity with the roster and a familiarity with the players," said Ainge. "Paul [Pierce] and Rajon [Rondo], especially, were big fans having played with him. I'm a fan of Delonte."
Ainge noted the team spent a lot of time getting a grasp on West's mental health (he suffers from bipolar disorder) and the maintenance required to help him. He said the team feels comfortable it can work with the player to keep him on track.
West provides much-needed depth on the perimeter. While Ainge wouldn't project a role for West, preferring to let that play out in training camp, it's likely West will compete with Von Wafer for the top reserve spot behind Ray Allen.
For his career, the 6-foot-4 West has averaged 10 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game. Neither Ainge nor coach Doc Rivers nor captain Pierce were bashful this offseason about noting that the Celtics desired another shooter. West is a 44.6 percent shooter overall from the field for his career and, while his 3-point shooting is average at best, he has a nice mid-range game that should fit well off the Boston bench.
West can also distribute the ball, adding depth at a point guard spot that lacked depth behind Rondo last season.
Ainge also refused to shut the door on more offseason moves, this despite a blizzard of signings already, and suggested he will evaluate the offseason once it's truly complete.
Rumors swirled this week that West was in the Boston area. The Herald reported Wednesday in its "Inside Track" gossip column that West was spotted apartment hunting in Waltham (site of Boston's practice facility), while a tipster told Red's Army, a popular Celtics blog, that West had been at New England Baptist Hospital for a pre-signing physical on Tuesday.