Friday, January 2, 2009

Marbury To Celtics Rumors Heat Up - Chemistry Lesson Anyone?

At 28-5, the defending champion Boston Celtics are clearly the class of the NBA right now despite their recent run of misfortune on the west coast which has seen them lose 3 of 4. It's easy to chalk up the Celtics' great success over the last 15 months to the superior collection of talent they trot out on a nightly basis. KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen give them three transcendent, veteran superstars, Rajon Rondo has endless potential at point guard and the C's bench is loaded with complementary pieces from shooters (Eddie House) to swingmen (Tony Allen) to bigs (Leon Powe, Glenn Davis).

While the Celtics meet all of the prerequisites for contending in the NBA - two superstars, an identity (superior defensively) and an unselfish, confident bench - they found out last year that in the playoffs team chemistry is the X factor and many times will decide your ultimate fate. The heavily favored 2004 Lakers are a great example of a team falling victim to a shoddy make-up. The Lakers rolled through the western conference playoffs before being embarrassed by a tight knit and hungry Detroit Pistons squad in the finals in 5. Now, the Lakers had two superstars and future HOFers in Shaq and Kobe however, their supporting cast consisted of only one true championship caliber role player in Derek Fisher. Karl Malone and Gary Payton were along for the ride in hopes of stealing a ring before retirement while the rest of the rotation (Brian Cook, Devean George, etc.) were used to deferring to Shaq and Kobe and lacked big game experience. Two big dogs will get you there, but the better team will always win.

To their credit Boston endured two grueling 7 game series against the upstart Atlanta Hawks and King James' Cavs in the first two rounds before beating the Lakers into submission both mentally and physically in the Finals. In the end, Boston's championship was a testament to the team's superior chemistry more than the great individual talent they put on the floor. The "Big 3" did their thing but without James Posey and Eddie House hitting a barrage of dagger 3's and Kendrick Perkins, PJ Brown and Leon Powe putting in physical minutes down low the Celtics probably don't beat the Lakers.

This brings us to the Celtics interest in Stephon Marbury. From a roster standpoint, I see Boston's argument and why this would make sense on the surface. First, the Celtics could use a more traditional point guard behind Rajon Rondo. Eddie House has a below average handle and is more effective as a three point sniper/hustle guy at the 2 guard while Sam Cassell's corpse is a liability come playoff time. Second, the Celts lost James Posey this offseason and with him went about 10-12 points a night off the bench and a three point shooter that can stretch a defense. The erratic Tony Allen has taken his spot and no one knows what he's going to give you in crunch time.

Beyond that, the Celtics, like so many teams before them, are simply rolling the dice on a guy with great talent, no playoff success and a propensity to wear out his welcome. The Celtics are hoping Steph has been thoroughly humbled in New York this season and now in his 30's will be hungry to do whatever it takes to get a ring. The fact that Marbury is in a contract year will certainly help. However, I still question how Marbury will react to being nothing more than role player off the bench. How does he respond to inconsistent playing time or a DNP? Is he OK being on the bench in crunch time?

As a Knick fan watching the Celtics well-oiled machine and having experienced Marbury first hand, I think this move would be a mistake with more downside than up for the champs. At least Boston will avoid one controversy right off the bat - no Celtic is currently wearing #3 so Marbury's jersey number will indeed match his skull.

Fantasy Impact

Barring an injury to Rajon Rondo, Marbury should not be a big fantasy contributor in Boston while the team is competing for playoff position. He should see around 15-20 mins a night backing up Rondo at the point and playing some two guard when the team is looking for an offensive spark. Come April if Boston has locked up the one seed, you could see the team resting Rondo for the playoffs, making Marbury an intriguing option in the fantasy basketball playoffs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nobody is wearing number 3 because Dennis Johnson wore that number, and it is retired.