For Celts, Mikki Moore may be more important addition than Marbury
The Celtics are taking a risk in adding Stephon Marbury to their backcourt
Marbury's reputation precedes him, and can he even play well anymore?
More notes: Shawn Marion's future; a bright spot down low for Pacers
Several Celtics officials have been asked the question over the last month: Why would they be interested in acquiring Stephon Marbury? The answers were pretty consistent: Yes, Marbury has the potential to create chaos, but how much of a disruption can he be in only a few months? Besides, they added, Boston's locker room has so much veteran leadership (namely thirtysomethings Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) that Marbury would feel compelled to toe the company line.
Those theories are about to be put to the test.
On Tuesday, Marbury reached a buyout agreement with the Knicks, and SI.com's Ian Thomsen is reporting the point guard is bound for Boston. A league source said Marbury will give back to the Knicks $1.9 million of the $6.4 million remaining on his $20.8 million contract. He will recoup some of that money when he signs with Boston, likely for a prorated amount of the $1.3 million veteran's minimum.
The risks in signing Marbury are obvious. Throughout his 13-year career, Marbury has always fancied himself a better player than he actually was. He boasted in December 2004 of being "the best point guard in the NBA," when, in fact, Marbury wasn't even the best point guard in his market, not with Jason Kidd in New Jersey. Boston's Rajon Rondo has played at an All-Star level this season, but is it ridiculous to suggest that at some point -- maybe after Rondo struggles in a tough playoff loss -- Marbury will opine that he could perform better?
Marbury also has never been much of a teammate. Knicks sources repeatedly said he had no allies in the locker room. Maybe that had something to do with his abandoning the team for a game last season after being told he would come off the bench.
Want more? At the 2004 Olympics, Marbury was known to disrespect Larry Brown by talking over the Team USA coach during practices. And who can forget his tumultuous 2½-year tenure in New Jersey, where Marbury wrote "All Alone 33" on his ankle tape and and insinuated that his teammates were losers.
Does Boston really need that kind of distraction? From a backup guard?
The other risk to consider is that Marbury may not be much of a player anymore. Marbury averaged a career-low 13.9 points last season and hasn't played in an NBA regular-season game since Jan. 11, 2008, after which he had season-ending ankle surgery. Despite coming into training camp for the 2008-09 season at the lightest weight of his career, Marbury hasn't been a part of an NBA conditioning program since he was banished from the Knicks (for refusing to enter a game, by the way) in November. The only evidence Marbury is in shape now is his word that he has been training hard in Los Angeles. Can Boston really expect any significant contributions from a player like that?
And what if he can play? So what? Boston could use some punch off the bench, sure, especially with Tony Allen out until April after thumb surgery. But what Boston really needs is another space-the-floor player who can open up the lanes for Pierce and Ray Allen. Eddie House -- who had a screaming match with Marbury during a preseason game in October and who will probably forfeit some of his minutes with Marbury's arrival -- is shooting 42.3 percent from three-point range this season. Marbury is a career 32.6 percent three-point shooter.
Boston should be much more enthused about the addition of forward-center Mikki Moore, who signed with the defending champions Tuesday. The 7-footer is a capable mid-range shooter who gives the Celtics more size and length than Leon Powe and Glen Davis offer. In a limited role, Moore can replace much of what the Celtics lost when P.J. Brown retired.
If the Great Marbury Experiment works, so much the better. If Marbury is a good soldier and keeps the Celtics from missing a beat when Rondo subs out, then general manager Danny Ainge deserves consideration for a second-consecutive Executive of the Year award. But if Marbury reverts back to Starbury and becomes a distraction, then Boston may wind up wasting a season. And with the championship window for the Garnett-Pierce-Ray Allen era slowly closing, the Celtics can't afford to do that.
Raptors hope to keep Marion
There has been speculation that the Raptors made the Jermaine O'Neal-Shawn Marion trade simply to clear Marion's $17 million salary off the books after the season. Though creating cap flexibility was part of the motivation for the deal, GM Bryan Colangelo said the 30-year-old Marion "absolutely" figures into the team's long-term plans.
"I hope we can lengthen the relationship," said Colangelo, who drafted Marion as Suns general manager in 1999. "In Miami, he was not producing the same kind of numbers I knew he was capable of, [but] that might be as much about system and utilization. Athletically, I don't think he has lost a whole lot at all."
Colangelo is hoping Marion's open-court abilities can help jump-start Toronto's running game.
"Transition is a very important part of the game," Colangelo said. "You have to look for easy scoring opportunities. We didn't have a lot of that in the last couple of years. Some bad habits got picked up, whether it was looking over to the bench for a play or dribbling it up the court as opposed to passing ahead. Shawn can be a catalyst to all of that."
Pacers' Hibbert finds his footing
One positive development for Indiana has been the progress of center Roy Hibbert, the 17th pick in the 2008 draft. Hibbert has started the last seven games and averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17.4 minutes. The coaching staff says the 7-footer is one of the team's hardest workers. Hibbert is slow to move laterally and will probably always struggle defending the pick-and-roll, but he is a wide target with a developing low-post game.
"The two most difficult positions to play as a rookie are center and point guard," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "Especially now that there are so few traditional centers and so many teams going small. The thing that has really helped him is that his legs weren't strong enough coming out of college. We have been working on the strength of his legs and his agility, and as they improve, I think you are going to see him get a lot better."