Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe has an interesting story on the newest Boston Celtic: 32-year-old Stephon Marbury, a former NBA All-Star point guard who was recently released by the New York Knicks.
Marbury is considered a very talented player, but during a 13-year in which he has consistently played for losing teams, he’s developed a reputation for being a “malcontent” and generally being difficult to be around.
Benbow examines whether Marbury will be viewed differently now that he has joined the World Champion Boston Celtics, which have strong leaders in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Will the situation change Marbury or is Marbury stuck in his ways? We excerpt the piece below.
* * *
Certain players just fit the type, according to [former Boston Celtics coach and current TV announcer Tommy] Heinsohn.
“They’re usually smart guys,” he said. “They’ve got something to prove. I think they understand that this is their shot to win a title and be a special player and reclaim their heritage to the game.”
New England has been good to those kinds of players recently. Randy Moss mooned Packers fans in Green Bay, nudged a traffic officer with his car in Minneapolis, then went to a Super Bowl in his first season as a Patriot.
Corey Dillon went from Cincinnati malcontent to Super Bowl champion.
Stephon Marbury is the latest to come to Boston with baggage, and the constant question around his impending arrival was whether he’d be toxic to team chemistry.
But there’s something reclaimable about Marbury, because of the situation he’s walking into – a veteran locker room with a championship-tested formula – and he wouldn’t be the first player to thrive with the Celtics after being labeled damaged goods.
“Every new guy that came to Boston, they wanted to make sure we kept winning,” said Tom “Satch” Sanders, who won eight rings in Green. “They didn’t want people to say, ‘What was the reason the Celtics didn’t win? It must be that new guy.’ ”
“They’re tired of being the reason why,” Heinsohn said. “Tired of being the scapegoat. They wanted to prove that they were really a terrific player. And they want to be on a winning team.”
Dennis Johnson had the “problem” classification before he came to Boston. His temper torched college coaches, and Lenny Wilkens spent three years butting heads with him in Seattle. Fed up in 1980, Wilkens told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “You can’t get rid of the body, but you can cut out the cancer.”
The Sonics dealt Johnson to Phoenix, and three years later he ended up in Boston. K.C. Jones, the Celtics’ new coach, paid Johnson’s rep no mind.
“When he came, I knew he had a reputation,” Jones said. “I heard things about him, that he was difficult. When he came in, I wanted to see how he played and if he did his job. When he got to the Celtics, he got out there and he played, and nothing came up because none of it showed.”
Johnson won two rings in Boston.
* * *