Starbury to Boston: Eight Reasons for Optimism
The Celtics and Stephon Marbury are
a great fit. There, I said it. I know it's unconventional to think that
the star-crossed Marbury is going to fit in with a championship team,
but the low-risk, high-reward proposition is potentially just too good
In honor of his new number on his new
team (R.I.P. Antoine Walker), here are eight reasons why Stephon Marbury
will succeed in Boston.
Ubuntu: If you've watched any Celtic game last year, you probably
heard something about "Ubuntu," the mantra and philosophy that drove
the Celtics to their 17th NBA title.
"Ubuntu" defines what makes the
Celtics a special group, emphasizing togetherness instead of individuality.
It was "Ubuntu's" principles that coerced head coach Doc Rivers
into submitting defensive responsibilities to his top assistant, Tom
Thibideau. It's what helped Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce
mesh together so quickly. It's what produced some of the best
man-hugs in history, courtesy of James Posey.
Thanks to "Ubuntu," the Celtics
as a unit are too strong, and their system too rooted for even Marbury
to sabotage. In fact, the idea of Marbury even attempting
to poison the Celtics "Ubuntu" formula seems pretty outrageous.
He's operating in the warm, welcoming waters of the Celtic locker
room, and chances are good that he will make himself a fruity cocktail,
put an umbrella in his drink, and kick back and enjoy the weather.
2. Dribble-Drive Motion: If
you missed Grant Wahl's piece on the Dribble Drive Motion offense
last year (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/grant_wahl/02/12/memphis0218/), you're missing one of the most exciting
and innovative new offensive philosophies around in basketball. Used
heavily by John Calipari's Memphis Tigers, it predicates itself on
spreading the floor, breaking down defenses off the dribble, and finding
the open man.
In addition to the KG post-ups,
Pierce isolations and Ray-Ray double screens, the Celtics sprinkle on some DDM themselves,
using the devastatingly quick Rajon Rondo as their catalyst to blow
by defenders and either finish at the rim or dish off to the open guy.
As it does for Rondo, DDM plays right
into Marbury's strengths: dribbling and driving. Few can break
down a defense off the dribble like Marbury can, and with the Celtics
likely to space the floor when he's in, he'll have the freedom to
drive the lane at will.
3. The Trophy:
For the first time in several years, Marbury has some serious incentive
to clean up his act.
In several instances, including this
bizarre interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWxgbyYrT5A), Steph has spoken of his desire to "win
the trophy." That trophy (I think) happens to be the Larry O'Brien
trophy, the one that the Celtics hoisted triumphantly last June. They're
one of the favorites to win it again this year.
For the last four years in New York,
the words "Marbury" and "championship" have rarely been uttered
together, save for the times when people are referring his glory days
at Lincoln High. Marbury knew he had no shot in New York, stating in
the above interview that he could "steal the trophy."
We forget sometimes that everybody
likes to win, including Marbury. In Boston, he has the opportunity to
(legally) win a championship. Sounds like some incentive to me.
4. His career:
Marbury has an even bigger incentive than just a trophy: his career.
With enough baggage to be charged
a $500 fee at the JetBlue check-in counter, Marbury cannot afford another
slip-up in Boston. If he manages to mess this up, no NBA team is going
to risk a roster spot on a guy who has poisoned every single team he's
If Marbury shows he can shake off a
year's worth of rust, play well, and behave himself on a championship
contender, the 32 year-old Marbury will find himself with a multi-year
deal on an NBA team next season.
Is there really a choice? Either behave,
or play in the Chinese Basketball Assocation next season.
5. He's not the Savior:
Stephon Marbury was a false prophet in New York; a Coney Island bred,
Lincoln High-raised player who was brought in by Isiah Thomas to become
the franchise point guard needed to deliver the Knicks to the Promised
With no need to elaborate further,
Marbury's four-year stint in New York was deplorable, dreadful, and abominable.
He was not the savior Knicks' fans were anticipating.
Now, with the Celtics, he is only expected
to be their top reserve. With a lessened role comes lessened pressure.
Marbury has the liberty to come off the bench and score/dish the rock
for 20 minutes a night.
The diminished expectations have to
be refreshing to a guy who has had such impossibly high ones like putting
the Isiah Thomas-led Knicks into the Playoffs.
Rajon Rondo: Who, according to Doc Rivers, is the player the Celtics
cannot afford to lose? It's the guy with the headband, and no, it's
not Paul Pierce.
In just a season-and-a-half's time,
Rajon Rondo has emerged as one of the most efficient point-guards
in the league, as well as their most important piece.
At times last year, Rondo would appear
timid and defer to Garnett, Allen or Pierce. This season, Rondo
barks to referees, talks trash to opponents, and orders teammates around
like a seasoned veteran. Rondo has become just as important asthe Celtics' big three -- and if you take Doc's word for it, perhaps even more so.
So any talk about Marbury cutting into
Rondo's minutes or upsetting his confidence should be squashed. Rondo
is the starting point guard on this team, and it's going to stay that
way. Marbury shouldn't be playing enough minutes to disrupt on-court chemistry.
7. He can ball:
All else aside, Stephon Marbury is a good basketball player. He's
a two time All-Star, and has averaged 19.7 points and 7.8 assists over his
career. He's got a killer handle, a good jumpshot with range, and has shown
that he can be a good playmaker.
Danny Ainge signed Marbury because
he thinks Marbury can help the team in their bid to repeat. He's the
true point-guard the Celtics have been looking for to backup Rondo.
Once he gets back into game shape, they'll have one of the most talented
guards to come off the pine in the league -- a much-needed asset for a team whose main weakness this season has been a lack of bench productivity.
8. Proving them wrong:
Fans, writers, analysists, coaches, chefs, NASA engineers, small children...
it seems like everybody is hanging their framed PHD's (player hating
degrees) on their walls and dishing out unabashed criticism and blame
He's been accused of being everything
from the largest cancerous tumor to ever walk the NBA to the main reason
that the Zimbabwean inflation rate is over 230 million percent.
It's safe to say Marbury has some
serious motivation to prove his detractors wrong.
And it's also safe to say that the
Celtics got a steal that may help bring them their 18th championship.