|03.01.09 at 1:02 pm ET|
We are live from snowy Boston Garden for today’s game between the Celtics and Pistons. The excitement from Stephon Marbury’s debut Friday night has subsisted a little, but not entirely. Marbury was greeted by the familiar throng of notebooks and mini-cams before the game anxious to hear his every word.
In truth there isn’t much more Marbury can say at this point. The real work begins tomorrow and Tuesday when the team is able to hold practices. For now Doc Rivers gave his new guard a few more sets and a few more defensive principles. For his part, Marbury spoke in glowing terms about Tom Thibodeau. “He’s everything they say,” Marbury told the press. “He’s precise on what he wants on the defensive end.”
The Pistons, meanwhile, are in the midst of a transition of their own. Allen Iverson has been moved to the bench and they are struggling.
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: After a slow start, the Celtics have taken a 22-20 lead after one quarter. Paul Pierce has nine points and Rajon Rondo posted a Fat Lever-esque line of two points, four rebounds and two assists. The C’s were able to play their pace in last four minutes or so and wiped out a seven-point Piston lead with a 9-0 run.
First Quarter Observations
— Rondo can get by Rodney Stuckey whenever he wants. It will be interesting to see how he attacks the Detroit defense. On the first possession he had a clear lane but dished it back out. On the second he was met by Rasheed Wallace who altered his shot.
— Now that Detroit has moved Iverson to the bench, and he’s not active today, the Pistons are back to being a team that runs sets for Rip Hamilton and plays inside out with Wallace and Antonio McDyess. It helped them win at Orlando the other night.
— It feels like we’re in the Boston Public Library today. The crowd is a little sleepy.
— If you remember, Ray Allen began wearing his protective sleeve in the playoffs last year after he said fellow UCONNer Rip Hamilton left him with scratch marks up and down his arm. The two are battling pretty good today.
— The pace is entirely in Detroit’s favor right now. They are one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of pace and it is incumbent upon the Celtics to run whenever they can. Of course they need to get stops in order to run and the Pistons are shooting just a tick under 50 percent.
— Joey Crawford is not taking anything off Rasheed. He just banged him for a T. So if you have the first quarter in the Joey-Sheed Technical Pool you’re a winner!
|03.01.09 at 12:23 pm ET|
Brian Scalabrine will undergo an MRI at 7am on Monday for what he is “99%” sure was his fifth concussion. Scalabrine was initially diagnosed with a cervical strain during February 19’s game against the Utah Jazz. He had not been able to undergo an MRI until he was deemed asymptomatic by doctors.
|02.27.09 at 11:18 pm ET|
The lights were going down and the excitement in the Garden was building when PA announcer Ernie Palladino began to introduce, “The World Champion Boston Celtics.” Mikki Moore snuck up behind Stephon Marbury and shook him by the shoulders as if to say, “Can you believe we’re a part of this?”
For Moore, who was in something akin to exile in Sacramento, and Marbury who actually was in exile from the Knicks it must have felt like getting an upgrade from the old Howard Johnson’s in Kenmore Square to a room at the Collonade.
While Moore provides a burst of energy and more than a little bit of “length” all eyes were on Marbury in his Boston debut. He said all the right things in his pre-game press conference, channeling Crash Davis with various renditions of, “I’m just here to help the ballclub.”
If the first meeting with the press went well, Marbury’s introduction to the Boston faithful was like the Bosstones taking the stage at the Hometown Throwdown. His face was cheered on the Jumbotron and when he entered the game late in the first quarter he received the full rock-star treatment with a raucous standing ovation. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Marbury said. “I was hoping they would clap. There was a lot of love tonight.”
It’s all in place for Marbury to rejuvenate his career, his image and a good bit of of his self-respect. “I’ve made mistakes,” he said before the game. “I’ve learned from them.”
Lost in all of that is the fact that for a guy who hasn’t played in an NBA game in over a year he looked remarkably good. He showed his mid-range game and an ability to turn the corner and get to the basket. He was 4-for-6 from the field for eight points and two assists in 13 minutes. Oh, there were a few signs of rust–he had three turnovers, and while he is tremendous physical shape he is not in NBA shape yet, and probably won’t be for at least a few more weeks.
“Shooting the ball wasn’t the problem,” he said. “It was getting legs to get into the shot.”
“I was laughing with him at halftime, I said, ‘You looked like Jerry Quarry there,'” Doc Rivers said. “He had the boxer’s legs, you know.”
But as first impressions go it was pretty close to perfect for Marbury and the Celtics. He solves one immediate problem by being the capable ballhandler the bench has lacked for the better part of two seasons. Eddie House, who isn’t nearly as bad a a dribbler as people who make him out to be, but is not really suited to the task moves immediately to the off-guard position.
“I think it will help Eddie because it moves Eddie off the ball,” Rivers said. “In the grand scheme of things, I think it’ll help make Eddie a better player because now Eddie can become a shooter full time.”
What’s not clear, at least not yet, is how this affects Gabe Pruitt, who couldn’t have picked a worse time to get picked up on suspicion of DUI. Even before the incident, Pruitt was about to become the third and maybe even the fourth option. Pruitt who remains a work on progress may have seen his best chance to establish himself as a contributor this year go by the wayside.
The other thing Marbury does is potentially alleviate the load on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Rivers has been concerned about the veterans’ minutes–a concern that has only grown without Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine to back them up. Pierce logged almost 40 minutes and Allen checked in with a whopping 43+ minutes, which is entirely too many. Rivers knows this, which is why he plans to incorporate House as a shooter off the bench to help spell Allen.
That solves one set of problems but could introduce another, as Marbury and House are not exactly “big” guards. In that construction, Marbury would probably draw the oppositions two guards, which is an additional adjustment he must make on the defensive end. “Defense,” Marbury said. “That’s the only thing they talk about is defense. The offense takes care of itself.”
How Marbury handles the defensive schemes will be as much a part of his success in Boston as the points, rebounds and assists, but you get the feeling that he is liberated by the change. “It’s not about who’s shooting the ball and who’s not shooting the ball,” Marbury said. “Ray had 30, I didn’t even know he had 30 points. I didn’t even know (Rajon) Rondo had 17 assists. Until I looked up at the board and saw that, I didn’t even know that.”
Ah, Rondo. When Sam Cassell arrived last year there was some angst over how his presence would affect Rondo. As it turned out, nobody really needed to have worried much. Rondo, as preternaturally calm and confident as they come, couldn’t have been bothered less by Cassell. This time there are no such questions, and his career-tying 17 assist effort only further proved the point.
This is Rondo’s team, but what Marbury brings is some direction to the bench which could frankly use some. “His whole career he’s had to be the franchise player,” Allen said. “Here he just has to run the second unit.”
Allen first met Marbury at a Nike camp a long, long time ago. Allen, the high school senior, remembers the ninth-grader with boundless energy bouncing off the bleachers. They came into the league together as part of the famed 1996 draft class when Marbury was taken one spot ahead of Allen by Milwaukee and then immediately traded for him. “I told him he still owes me 200 grand,” Allen joked; the difference between their two draft slots. “Our careers have definitely come full circle.”
For one night at least, this unusual, highly improbable chemistry experiment was a success. As Marbury finished answering questions in his locker, which is right next to his old Minnesota running mate Kevin Garnett, the smile never left his face. “Can you believe I’m a part of this?”
|02.27.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
Stephon Marbury wasted no time making his intentions known.
‘I’m not looking to improve my game,’ he said at his introductory press conference. ‘I’m coming here to try to help the Celtics win another championship.’
Wearing a Boston Celtics shirt with a handwritten number eight on the shamrock, Marbury addressed the media prior to Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (RECAP HERE) He shrugged off talks of selfishness and expressed his willingness to do whatever is asked of him on the court.
Marbury said all the right things as the newest member of an organization driven by chemistry and teamwork.
‘This is a very selfless team,’ said Ray Allen. ‘We don’t care about individual accolades.’
Even though Marbury received a standing ovation in his first game, the skepticism of his team-first attitude is not going to go away overnight. He comes to Boston with the baggage of a tarnished reputation, one that isn’t forgotten by wearing a new uniform. The front office explained to Marbury how the team operates, a discussion which is protocol for every new player.
‘We establish what the rules are, how we run things here, and how it’s about the team,’ Celtics president Danny Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show. ‘We’ve established those rules with Steph. (Head coach) Doc (Rivers) and I had a good conversation with him this morning and I’ve had a handful of conversations with Steph about those things even before now, as the Knicks gave us permission to talk.’
Marbury wants to look ahead. And so do the Celtics.
‘I’m not afraid of Steph, Doc’s not afraid of Steph, and it really comes down to Doc,’ Ainge said. ‘I think Doc understands Steph and can manage him and that Steph will respect Doc, first and foremost.’
Last season Rivers coached five veteran first-year Celtics to a championship. He knows firsthand that a new environment can turn a vet’s career around.
‘That was New York and wherever else. That has nothing to do with today and tomorrow,’ Rivers said of concerns about Marbury. ‘I’ve always had an open mind with everyone who’s come in, and you know, we’ve done pretty well. Our locker room is very strong and we just have good people. And so, no, I’m not that concerned about that at all.’
The players are on board with personnel. After winning a title with a reconstructed team, the Celtics know that a midseason acquistion (think P.J. Brown) can be the missing piece to success.
‘You’ve just got to welcome him in, make him feel like he’s at home. Other than that, just do things together off the court,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘I think [adding so many new players last season] helped us a lot. We’ve just got to keep getting better and help these guys just keep improving as a team. I think we’ll get better as they get to play more games.’
The key to Marbury’s success with his new team is just that, playing as a team.
‘You never know what’s in front of you as far as your basketball career,’ he said. ‘That’s why you just play as hard as you can and do the best that you can.’
|02.27.09 at 9:28 pm ET|
At the start of the fourth quarter: Celtics 77, Pacers 75
– The tandem of Marbury and House are back on the court. This moves Ray Allen to the small forward, where he quickly got to work hitting threes.
– Marbury is showing versatility on the court and the crowd is loving it. From finding Ray on the arc to driving the lane, he has helped the Celtics build a double-digit lead.
– There are high-fives all around heading into a timeout halfway through the quarter. Marbury and Moore are not letting their new teammates down. Marbury received a standing O when he left the game.
– Leon Powe finally has the opportunity to show what he can do at the four spot. He posted 14 points and 6 rebounds.
– Despite the excitement in the Garden, this game is not over yet. The Pacers are still in it with a minute to go.
– The Celtics are 1-0 in the Stephon Marbury era. They beat the Pacers 104-99.
|02.27.09 at 8:56 pm ET|
The Celtics got absolutely pounded on the boards, 26-14, in the first half which is the biggest thing that stands out from the opening 24 minutes. And yet, they are only down one as we get ready for the third quarter.
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: Despite Rajon Rondo’s brilliance. Despite Ray Allen’s hot hand. Despite solid production from Paul Pierce, the Celtics have some work to do in the fourth quarter against the short-handed Pacers. Oh, and there is some serious tensions between the Celtics and ref Derrick Collins.
It’s all leading to an exciting fourth quarter. Will Stephon Marbury play an important part?
Third Quarter Observations
— It would really help the backup big men’s causes if they learned how to finish around the rim. Both Big Baby and Leon Powe seem to have a tick where they either expect contact or wait for it to come instead of finishing off the play.
— Old NBA wisdom that seems apt this evening. Long road trips don’t end until after the first home game back in town. The Celtics have been gone for almost three weeks and they seem a step slow tonight.
— Leon Powe has put together a nice night so far with 10 points and three rebounds. As I wrote after the Clipper game, Powe’s per-minute production is practically starter level. What keeps him off the floor for longer periods of time (besides playing on a team like the Celtics) is the fact that he averages a foul every six minutes or so. If he can do two things–cut down on the fouls and make free throws at a 75 percent rate–he can have a long and very lucrative career.
— Rondo has 17 assists tonight. Seventeen. Think he might be making a point? (That ties a career-high by the way).
— That was so close to the greatest offensive move Kendrick Perkins will ever make.
— Well, give the Pacers credit for hanging in this one without Danny Granger. They’ve shot the ball much better this quarter and they’re still enjoying a +10 margin on the boards.
|02.27.09 at 8:12 pm ET|
At the start of the second quarter … Celtics 26, Pacers 18
– Stephon Marbury may be Enemy Number One to some Knicks fans, but Celtics fans are quick to embrace him. Marbury received a standing ovation when he checked in late in the first quarter. They followed up with a loud cheer the first time he brought the ball up the court. Mikki Moore received about a fifth of the applause when he made his Garden debut.
– Marbury scored his first points as a Celtic less than two minutes into the second quarter.
– Doc is going with the frontcourt duo of Leon Powe and Moore. The (barely) 6-8 Powe appreciates the move back to power forward. He doesn’t have to guard Shaq anymore, he joked.
– During an early timeout, Doc and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau separately pulled Moore aside for some one-on-one feedback.
– Eddie House is sharing the backcourt with Marbury. Doc likes this combination and thinks it will help House. “In the grand scheme of things, I think it’ll make Eddie a better player because now Eddie can become a shooter almost full time,” Rivers said. “He can run he floor, he can come off picks. The point guards will still probably have to guard Eddie. The two guards will guard Steph together, and I think of all the guys who this benefits it’s probably Eddie.”
– How are the Celtics losing this game? Being outrebounded 23-11 never bodes well.
– The Phoenix Suns were interested in rookie Brandon Rush last summer and it’s easy to see why. Rush has the shot to make an impact of the bench and would have been another scoring option for Steve Nash (who, as the Celtics have exposed twice this season, isn’t the same player he used to be). Rush has 13 first half points.
- At the half … Pacers 49, Celtics 48
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