February 28, 2009
Stephon Marbury gets hyped up with his teammates in the hallway before the Celtics took the court in his Boston debut.Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty
It wouldn't be an easy argument to claim that Stephon Marbury's Boston debut was anything but a success. Not when he had eight points and two assists on 4-of-6 shooting in his first NBA action of the season, or when he helped key a 12-4 fourth quarter run which shut the lid on the Indiana Pacers in the Celtics' 104-99 win.
But with everyone from Doc Rivers to Paul Pierce to Marbury himself commenting that the former All-Star is going to need time to get his game legs, Friday's box score could be one of few over the next weeks where success can be found in raw numbers.
"I think Steph's just going to have up and down for a while," Rivers said. "He's going to have some great nights and he's going to struggle some nights."
"I remember when I sat out those games and I came back for that first game and I played well," Pierce said, "after that it was like...[I] didn't play too well for about five or 10 games."
So while it might take some time for the numbers to come, there are plenty of little things from Friday that should endure. Like the timing Marbury showed in the second half, hitting Ray Allen with crisp passes as he curled off perimeter screens, and the wherewithal he had to take advantage of slow defensive rotations and get to the rim.
"He still had timing, which you usually don't have," Rivers said. "I was really surprised, you sit out that long and your timing is that good.
"You could just see his basketball IQ," the coach added. "The one thing our bigs were laughing at, they've got to get their hands ready on pick and rolls. I mean, he handcuffed them three or four times. They just weren't expecting the ball. But what I was impressed with was where he found Ray."
Marbury's hoop smarts helped him pick up the three sets Rivers put in for him just before the game in a 5:00 p.m. shootaround, as well as Boston's focus on defense. While Marbury will be asked to defend shooting guards when playing alongside Eddie House in the second unit, he made a key play on Indiana's center, Rasho Nesterovic, during that fourth-quarter run.
With Indiana still single-digits away from Boston, Nesterovic made a move to the basket with only Marbury in the way. Rather than swiping at the ball, Marbury made a move to draw an offensive foul only to sidestep at the last moment, faking the contact and forcing Nesterovic into an out-of-control airballed layup. Eight seconds later, Marbury had sped down the court for the score that gave the Celtics an 11-point lead.
"It's the only thing they talk about [here], defense," Marbury said. "Offense, it takes care of itself. The thing I like about the offense is that it's free, there aren't any restrictions. Everyone just plays, whoever has the open shot, gets the shot."
The quietest moments took place before the game, when Rivers and Marbury held a press conference. All that was said was positive, but apart from the words was the molar-bearing smile on Marbury's face. And when Rivers spoke, he had Marbury's full attention -- rather than staring straight ahead, the guard looked right at his coach, seated next to him, as he spoke. Details like that could mean nothing, but at the very least, they are hints in the right direction.
But what can be most easily taken away from Friday night was simple: he was happy to be here, and Boston, with a standing ovation marking Marbury's first substitution into the game, was happy to have him.
"The crowd," Marbury said. "I was so happy, I didn't know how they were going to respond. They really showed me a lot of love. I felt that. I felt wanted."