ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jameer Nelson played three years at St. Joseph's with Delonte West, toiling endlessly in practice and forming a strong bond, not to mention a prolific backcourt. Never once did he know or suspect that West was dealing with mood disorders or depression.
"People don’t look at us as having problems because we are professional athletes," Nelson said Wednesday after practicing with the Orlando Magic. "They look at us as the guys that go out there on the basketball court. We have outside life as well, and things can go on in your life that would trigger you to act a certain way. We’re human just like anybody else."
Nelson said he spoke on the phone with West several times during the summer, and nothing seemed wrong.
"He seemed well," Nelson said. "But you can never tell over the phone how somebody is doing."
Now, as West has spiraled into his second day of unexcused exile from the Cleveland Cavaliers' training camp, Nelson's calls have gone unanswered.
"I know he’s going through a lot," Nelson said. "It’s tough on a young man to go through. We all go through things and we handle things differently. I just hope that he gets through it."
Few NBA players can appreciate the depths of West's despair the way Nelson can. Not only are they friends and former teammates, but Nelson also has endured more than his share of hardship. Only weeks before the start of the 2007-08 season, Nelson's father, Floyd, died accidentally while working as a welder for a tugboat company on the Delaware River. He was 57. Nelson suffered through his pain and grief while trying to do his job as a professional basketball player. And so he wants to be there for West, when his former teammate is ready.
"He's in my prayers," Nelson said. "I know this about Delonte: He’s a strong person and he's a great person. I don’t want anybody to think because of what’s going on and what happened to him that he’s a bad person. He’s a great person, and people need to understand that."