"I know there is no substitute for the NBA," says Ferry, "but I figured this was what was best for me at the time. I know the Clippers and others thought this was a bargaining tool to get traded, but once I signed, that was it. I was staying the year in Rome. I didn't want to be in limbo.
"Valerio got me at a very emotional, vulnerable period. Whether somebody else had drafted me—I just don't know—I can't speak to that. I reacted to my situation as it was, not what might have been. The Clippers could have hardballed me, chastised me in the papers. But they've always acted with class. I still expect to be a Clipper someday, but the opportunity to play in Rome was something I thought would never come again."
Shaw, who was a little-known college point guard before he started 54 games as a rookie last season for the Celtics, echoes Ferry's thoughts. Boston did not take Shaw's offer from Il Messaggero seriously. "Brian better brush up on his Italian," Celtics general manager Jan Volk said cavalierly. Now the Boston media parrot the familiar argument against European ball: The longer Shaw and Ferry play in Italy, the more their value will decrease in the NBA because their talent will dry up and they will develop sloppy habits.
The argument is specious and silly, loaded with, as the Italians say molto fumo e poco arrosto (much smoke but very little roast). No, Ferry will learn how to bang and post up, and he will become a mature, polished leader. Shaw, cut off from driving because of zone defenses and desirous of staying in one piece, will become the outside shooter-scorer the Celtics didn't believe he could be. Both will be back, much the better for their cultural and athletic experiences abroad. "The bottom line is Brian and I are having a lot of fun," says Ferry.
Which may be the difference between road trips to Florence, Venice and Milan and ones to Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Cleveland. Then there's all that loot. Who's in the big league now? "Somebody from Il Messaggero told me we're going to get a private audience with the pope," says Shaw. "Now I'd call that pretty big league."