for this game

West sparks Cavs to 90-79 win

Nov 1, 2009 - 2:24 AM By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND(AP) -- Before Delonte West headed to the locker room, Mo Williams grabbed his troubled teammate and pulled him close.

Williams wanted West to hear something and whispered in his ear.

"I told him, 'Stay with us'," Williams said.

West scored 13 points - all in the second half - in his delayed season debut to spark Cleveland, Williams had 24, and LeBron James added an unselfish 14 as the Cavaliers, finally at full strength, beat Charlotte 90-79 on Saturday night.

Williams made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and James added nine assists and seven rebounds for the Cavs, 2-2 after an 0-2 start.

West's turbulent offseason finally brought him back to the floor. After missing all eight preseason games and Cleveland's first three of the regular season to deal with personal issues, West was cleared by team doctors, ending more than a month of drama.

He went 5 of 7 from the field and had rebounds, two assists and a technical in 24 minutes.

"I thought he played terrific. He's been off and we had to walk him through a few plays here and there," Williams said, chuckling. "But besides that, he's just a basketball player. He knows the game. He knows the spots on the floor. He's familiar with us and it was great to have him back."

Vladimir Radmanovic scored 12 points, and D.J. Augustin and Gerald Wallace 11 apiece to lead Charlotte, which has never won in Cleveland.

West's off-court issues have threatened to derail the Cavs' plans to make a strong run at an NBA title. As much as the team has tried to downplay West's absences and insisted that he has not been a distraction, his cloudy and delicate situation has lingered.

Cavs general manager Danny Ferry has been working closely with team doctors and a support team around West. The team had "loosely" targeted Cleveland's second home game as West's return date, Ferry said, and the parties came to a consensus before Saturday's game.

"Steps were followed and this is the next step of his process," Ferry said. "We're taking it one day at a time, but he's doing well."

West, who has not spoken to reporters since media day last month, was not available for comment following the game.

His teammates were more than happy to do that for him.

"He's important to our team," James said. "He can sit out for two weeks and he comes back in and he's right in the flow. I've said it before, he's just that type of guy."

"It's vital that we have everybody as we take this journey," Shaquille O'Neal said.

The 26-year-old West, who has been treated in the past for bipolar disorder, was arrested in September for carrying three concealed weapons. He reported to training camp on time but missed the Cavs' first four practices without an excuse. He came back but then left for a week to deal with his personal matters.

Last week, West's wife filed a domestic violence report against him.

But that was all in the past - for at least one night.

West hardly looked like he had missed any time, and his return had Cleveland's offense playing better than it has so far in this early season.

"We had a nice flow, and I think that helped him a lot, that we weren't struggling," Williams said. "He just came in and did what he did. He was confident. He made his plays. He made all the right decisions."

The Cavaliers trailed 46-45 early in the third before going on a 21-8 run - much of it with O'Neal on the bench - to open a 14-point lead entering the fourth. West was a factor in helping the Cavs distance themselves from the Bobcats, who were understandably exhausted after playing two overtimes Friday in a win over New York.

The Cavs are still getting used to playing with O'Neal, who made his first free throws of the season after 10 consecutive misses. He added eight points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, coming off the bench behind O'Neal, went 5 for 5 from the floor and had five blocks.

"Myself and him," O'Neal said. "We are the best center in the game."

James didn't have to dominate - not that he couldn't have.

"LeBron got 14, but he could have had 50, the way he played," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "He's so unselfish."

NOTES: Bobcats Raymond Felton had eight turnovers, one night after playing 49 minutes and needing IV fluids. ... Cleveland's defense gave up just two fast-break points. ... Charlotte is 0-10 in Cleveland and the Bobcats have lost seven straight overall to the Cavs. ... The Bobcats remain without Gs Raja Bell (sprained wrist) and Flip Murray (shin), who have yet to play this season. Brown said Bell may play Monday at home against New Jersey and Murray could return Friday against Atlanta.