Celtics roll dice with West

JOHN MCMULLEN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 3:19 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The Miami Heat may have dominated the offseason headlines, but the Boston Celtics are still the top dogs in the East.

After taking the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the NBA Finals last season, the veteran-laden Celtics could have gone in two different directions. Coach Doc Rivers' contract was up, while veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen was a free agent and All-Star forward Paul Pierce could have opted out of his deal.

Basketball chief Danny Ainge could have pulled the plug and got started on the inevitable rebuilding process, or convinced the band to get back together to take one more stab at capturing the franchise's 18th NBA championship.

Ainge made his decision, booked the Hard Rock and convinced Rivers to return, while re-signing Allen and securing a still formidable but declining Pierce for another four seasons.

With his core four of Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo back in the fold, Rivers certainly knows he has a contender but his club has already forfeited the make-believe mantle of favorite in the much-improved East. That now belongs to Pat Riley and the Heat, who brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade.

To fend off the Heat and solve the Lakers puzzle, the C's needed to sure up a shaky bench. Ainge has brought in veteran big men Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal to hold down the fort in the middle while Kendrick Perkins recovers from tearing the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee during Game 6 of The Finals.

Meanwhile, his latest move was bringing back troubled veteran guard Delonte West, the 24th overall by the Celtics back in 2004.

The 27-year-old West, who signed a non-guaranteed deal, spent the last two- plus years in Cleveland with James but was limited to 35 games in 2009-10 and 64 games a year earlier while dealing with an array of personal problems that included depression, along with legal issues stemming from an arrest on weapons charges in September of 2009.

After being stopped for a traffic violation while riding a 3-wheeled motorcycle, police found a Beretta pistol, .357 Magnum and a Remington 870 rifle in a guitar case West was carrying.

An underrated swing guard, West originally blamed the indiscretion on his failure to take his prescribed medication for bipolar disorder. He eventually pleaded guilty this past July to traffic and weapons charges, and was sentenced to electronic monitoring, unsupervised probation, and 40 hours of community service as well as psychological counseling.

The NBA piled on, suspending the St. Joseph's product for 10 games.

"I think we're getting Delonte at a good time in his life," Rivers wrote on Twitter. "He knows who he is now."

Rivers also understands bringing West in could go boom or bust. A healthy, well-adjusted West could provide solid minutes behind both Rondo and Allen, giving Boston one of the most impressive three-guard rotations in the league. On the other hand, a brooding, distant West could upset the balance of a delicate locker room.

"Chemistry is a delicate thing. I understand that, and I'm as cautious as anyone with it. I guarantee you, I'll be keeping my eye on it,"' Rivers told AOL FanHouse on Wednesday. "I don't know yet if we can make it work. It is going to be interesting, that's for sure."


Videos

Photos