Roundtable: The Steph experiment
The key to the Celtics' Stephon Marbury move will be the impact on Rajon Rondo
The Celtics are putting their chemistry at risk in bringing in a controversial player
Reuniting Marbury with KG now smacks of desperation and arrogance
Stephon Marbury is on the verge of joining the Celtics after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Knicks on Tuesday. Would adding Marbury be the right call for the NBA's defending champions? SI.com's Ian Thomsen, Chris Mannix and Steve Aschburner weigh in on Boston's pending move.
Ian Thomsen: Effect on Rondo key
The verdict on this move will have everything to do with its impact on third-year player Rajon Rondo.
This warning comes from longtime Marbury watchers who believe he will undermine the confidence of Rondo, Boston's starter at point guard who is working to improve his jump shot. There was a reason Knicks players voted unanimously against Marbury early last season when asked if he should be allowed to return following an unexcused absence. Apart from Marbury's vast physical talents, the Knicks clearly viewed him as a drain on their team.
Rondo is crucial to the Celtics. His defense on the ball, his ability to create easy baskets and beat anyone off the dribble and his emerging leadership as quarterback of the offense make him indispensable to Boston.
Skeptics in the league warn that Marbury's ability to hit big jump shots could aim a spotlight on Rondo's one weakness, which is his inability to consistently knock down deep jumpers. An awkward QB controversy could develop between them in the fourth quarters. Such is the ill will Marbury has created over his 13 NBA seasons (which include no playoff-series victories).
I am not one of the many Starbury haters out there; I have no personal history with him, and no ax to grind. In fact, I have long thought the Celtics should fill their needs for ball handling and shooting off the bench by recruiting Marbury as long as he would be willing to become a sixth man -- a sentiment he has expressed in private meetings with the Celtics. If the Marbury signing pays off, it may well be viewed as the move that enabled the Celtics to defend their championship.
Because coach Doc Rivers is such a wise hands-on manager of this team, I've practically taken for granted that he -- together with Boston's veteran leaders -- should be able to work in Marbury without damaging Rondo's confidence or leadership.
But the surprising certainty of his detractors that Marbury will cause more harm than good to the Celtics reminds me of conversations I had with league executives about attempts by Cleveland to make a trade at last week's deadline. For sure, the Cavaliers could have added another big name to their roster, but as many execs cautioned before the deadline, they also risked damaging their floor balance and locker-room chemistry by importing a new personality to a championship-ready team. One of those alerts that a big deal could backfire on Cleveland came from none another than a Celtics official, which makes me now wonder if the warning that was heeded by the Cavaliers (who chose to make no move) may turn out to haunt Boston.
Chris Mannix: All this fuss for a backup point guard?
On the chance that Marbury accepts a reduced role (which he hasn't done in the past), plays defense (which he doesn't) and is a threat from the three-point line (which he isn't), this is a good move for Boston. Otherwise, the Celtics are putting their chemistry at risk with a player whose teams historically get better once he leaves.
Boston already has a capable backup point guard in Eddie House, who makes up for what he lacks in playmaking skills with one of the NBA's best perimeter shots. Shooting guard Tony Allen is out until April with a thumb injury, but the defensive-minded Allen was re-signed in the offseason because of his ability to consistently defend the likes of Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. Unless the 6-foot-2 Marbury grows three inches and starts channeling Bruce Bowen, he isn't getting those minutes.
Certainly there are positives. Marbury is a better ball handler than House and will be able to initiate the offense in ways that House can't. He's also a notoriously streaky scorer -- if he can get on one of those hot runs in the last month of the season, Marbury can give Rondo and Ray Allen some much-needed pine time before the playoffs.
But is all this worth it? Is the what-will-he-say-next anxiousness that Boston's brass will feel on a daily basis really worth it for a backup point guard?
For more from Chris Mannix on Marbury, click here.
Steve Aschburner: An astonishingly risky bet
Reuniting Marbury with Kevin Garnett is an old idea whose time has passed. It thrived, strong and pulsing, back in Minnesota for a good four, five, maybe six years after the kid from Coney Island forced his way out of town in March 1999. Diehard fans of the Timberwolves and the NBA who had seen the future -- Garnett-Marbury as Malone-Stockton for the new millennium or at least Kemp-Payton reincarnate -- wouldn't let it go. Every time Marbury changed teams, every time he came through town and reminded folks on the court why he and Oscar Robertson were the only players in league history to average more than 20 points and eight assists, we pick-pick-picked at the scab, a dozen versions of "what if?'' crowding out whatever actually was.
Marbury's assist average (7.8) has dipped him out of that elite company now, just as his game, his reliability, his baggage and his choices have redacted him from those daydreamy scenarios. He is, in essence, the shadow to Garnett's light, the low road to NBA stardom in which getting paid, getting a sneaker deal and getting one's name atop the marquee barge in front of all team priorities.
Reuniting him with Garnett now smacks of desperation and arrogance, the former feeding the talent-over-everything ethos that sparked so many Marbury-related migraines to begin with, the latter owing to Boston's Midas touch in 2007-08. It is an astonishingly risky bet, flirting so with the one guy determined to spell "ubuntu'' with an "I.'' It isn't that his game won't help the Celtics (once they scrape off a thick layer of rust), it's that his character truly might hurt them.
Frankly, the message sent throughout the league and into homes across America might do even more harm than that. If this were a March 2 maneuver, with Marbury required to humbly help Boston secure home-court advantage for the playoffs but ineligible to participate in the postseason himself -- as a sort of penance for all he caused to unravel in New York, Phoenix, New Jersey and Minnesota -- it might be a nice first step toward reclamation. But the prospect of this headstrong, overpaid and selfish player (look, we already granted the "talented'' part) shouting out, Garnett-like, "What can you say now?! What can you say NOW?!'' with his fingerprints smeared onto the Larry O'Brien trophy sometime in June seems enough to click off televisions throughout this sporting land, perhaps for good relative to the NBA. No longer will Rosie Ruiz reign as the biggest fraud taking a shortcut to glory in Boston.
Anything less than that, of course, will mean that Marbury slammed a fifth franchise into reverse.
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