In all honesty after the signing of Mikki Moore I thought the biggest need for this team was a bench player who could shoot and defend. (Preferably at the 2/3 spot) Looking at the free agent pool right now unless Bryon Russell coming out of retirement struck your fancy, there wasn’t much of anything out there to fill that role. So as the injuries continued to pile up, Danny Ainge decided to do the next best thing and fill at least one of those needs with the best proven shooter on the market: Stephon Marbury.
Celtic fans have had a good couple months to try to wrap our heads around the idea of Stephon Marbury wearing a green uniform. Count me amongst those who straddled the fence on whether the addition of Starbury would be a positive for this team. The positives of such a move appeared to be crystal clear yet the potential pitfalls could not be dismissed. I couldn’t be swayed on way or another. Now that the deal is imminent I made myself take a closer look at the proceedings and have come to informal conclusion on the signing: Why the hell not?
Sure you look at a player like Marbury and wonder what is running through his head with his antics the past few years. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt through it all given the dysfunction of the Knicks franchise during his time in NY. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t give him a pass on all of his actions in the Big Apple. I just think the entire situation brought out the worse in the guy and made him a bigger monster than he should be made out to be. A change in scenery, especially one in which winning championships becomes a possibility will do wonders for the attitude of most players. Just ask Randy Moss or Corey Dillon.
These supposed clubhouse cancers were welcomed in Boston with open arms and once they arrived they became (in Moss’ case still is) model citizens in the locker room. The comparison obviously isn’t completely applicable with the different dynamics of the sports. However the control, respect and win at all costs attitude Bill Belichick commands over his locker room is strikingly similar to how Doc Rivers currently maintains his team.
Though he does not possess the numerous titles of a Belichick (at least not yet), Rivers has been a master in the past year and a half at keeping the team happy, motivated, and focused on the ultimate prize in a NBA Championship. Like Belichick, Rivers has too much support in the locker room for a disgruntled veteran like Marbury to come in and be a nuisance. Rivers and the veterans on this team won’t put up with it. It’s just that simple. More after the jump.
Many have questioned what kind of defensive ability Marbury has left? Will he be willing to learn the rotations and put 100 percent into the side of the floor the team prides itself on? My simple answer to that is he better. Because if he doesn’t give it his all he won’t play. This is a team where Doc, the Big Three and even the young guys will call each other out for blow defensive assignments when they are up in a 20 point game. They don’t accept mistakes. Marbury will learn that quickly upon arriving here and will be shown the door just as fast if he does not commit himself to it.
Looking at the positives Marbury brings to the table, it all comes down to him helping improving the overall play of the bench as a unit. The Celtics bench unit as a team this year has been incredibly inconsistent due to its inability to move the ball, spread the floor and play to their individual strengths as players. Their inability to hold leads handed to them by the starters has forced Doc Rivers to overly rely on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen with the unit leading the two of them to hold spots in the top 10 for minutes played this season.
I see the arrival of Marbury as an opportunity to give those guys some rest and improve bench production. Starbury will know coming into town that he will not be here to play more than 20 minutes a game or become the focal point of the Celtics offense. His play at the point will be important in getting the ball out of Eddie’s hands at the point and instead shift him to the 2 on offense in order to allow him to play to his strength shooting on the perimeter. While he is out there he will also with any luck send Big Baby away from the outside and back down low to hit the boards which is where he belongs for the time being. Marbury will likely be the instant option offense off the bench that will take the pressure off Pierce and Allen when they play with the unit and in turn allow Rivers to reduce their minutes a bit more.
What Stephon also does for the team is give Doc Rivers a lot more options to explore with the bench, especially once the team starts to get healthy again. It should be fun to see Doc tinker with the possibilities in the backcourt. Rivers will face some defensive liabilities with his small guards coming off the bench but the addition of Marbury will give him the chance to adjust to matchups against specific teams more effectively. With TA out for the year the Celtics will likely have to go small a good deal but Rivers should be able to pick his spots on when he wants to spread the floor with three shooters. Should be fun to watch.
All in all this move is not going to make or break the Celtics this year. Rajon Rondo has improved more than we could have ever hoped for this year and will be playing the 35-40 plus minutes in most big games and throughout the playoffs the rest of the way anyway. The team knows it is far too reliant on him to try otherwise. That being said this signing is an added component to a team that needed to pack additional weapon in its arsenal for the dog fight for home court advantage the rest of the way.
There is no guarantee that Marbury will be able to bring anything to the table. On the flip side of the coin I feel extremely confident that he won’t take anything off of it either. Even if Marbury does not adopt the team first attitude of the Celtics it still would serve in his best interest to put on a happy face for the next three months. The damage he has done to his reputation for the past couple years is daunting. Without a positive tenure in Boston, his future prospects in the NBA would be extremely limited i.e. if Marbury wants to make any more money, he needs to make this signing work. And for that reason, I like this addition for the C’s.