Generally speaking, there isn't going to be much love found in this space for the basketball-playing abilities of the player whose 'intangible' value seems to be most hotly debated across Celtics Nation.
I would like to think (or at least I tell myself) that I remain somewhat moderate on this issue -- especially because as a fan, I refuse to ever completely turn on a player on a favorite team of mine -- but the fact of the matter is that it would be an untruth to call me a Brian Scalabrine booster.
When his minutes increased this season -- particularly during the absence of Kevin Garnett -- I found myself increasingly identifying with the sentiments coming from the camp of Scal's detractors.
But one has to give credit where credit has been earned, and Scal's attitude surrounding his relegation to the inactive list couldn't be better.All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog. Check him out!
It seems that there are two largely related connotations of intangibles in the basketball world. To one school of thought, intangibles are simply what doesn't show up in a player's stat line in the box score: Boxing out, screening, hustling for loose balls, passing that doesn't lead directly to a basket (the old adage is that the pass that leads to an assist is the most significant pass of any possession) and, of course, defense (particularly help). Intangibles are also defined as what a player brings to a team off the court, particularly in his attitude and general demeanor.
So far as the former goes, Brian Scalabrine has done little this season to change the contention here that his on-floor values are negligible at best. He does play hard when he is on the floor, but his physical limitations -- and the style he chooses to play -- are simply too great to overcome. Scalabrine doesn't move well and isn't a great defender, and it seems from here that his contributions in help are often overstated. On the offensive end, Scal is a complete liability. He is a 6-foot-9 big man who prefers hanging around the perimeter, where he has been at best a decent shooter over the breadth of his career (34.6 percent from deep) and a putrid one this season (31.7), albeit in limited opportunities during the current campaign. He offers nothing in the low post, isn't particularly effective in screen-and-roll sets and can't be trusted with the ball in his hands. While he is willing to hustle, he isn't one of these guys who seems to be always coming out of scrums fighting for his life for loose balls or jumping out of bounds to make saves to his teammates. In fairness to Scal, with the possible exception of the time during KG's absence, his minutes have been very limited this season (10.4 per game in 41 appearances, although he has started nine times), but he has clearly been ineffective when the chances have come on the court.
But to the man's credit, he got a chance to play that latter intangibles role on Monday, and it certainly appears that he handled it in the best manner imaginable.
With Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown both officially ready to play (rust notwithstanding) once and for all, it is Scalabrine who moves down to that thirteenth spot on the Celtics' depth chart, and the team can only dress twelve players every game. But as the Globe's Marc Spears reports, Scalabrine has been prepared for this reality and plans to deal with it as professionally as possible:
"I can understand why I am being put on the list right now," Scalabrine said. "I don't think I've played as well as I could've played.
"There are things I can improve on. I have to continue to try to do that."
"I just want to continue to work and get better," Scalabrine said. "I'll always know that if anything happens in the NBA, I'll be ready if a guy goes down. I'll just schedule my workouts and be ready to go."
"It's a lot bigger than Brian Scalabrine, this whole thing. It's about winning a championship for the Boston Celtics. If Danny and Doc believe it's best for me to be on the list, then that's my role."
Those are the words of a man who gets it.
Sure, the detractors will be ready to say that Scalabrine has no choice in the matter and that, for the money he is making, he had jolly well best take the role assigned to him and comply without complaint, but the fact remains that these players are humans. Prior to reaching the NBA level, virtually all of them have spent the vast majority of their basketball lives as stars wherever they have been. Almost without exception, all have egos, and they all have pride, no matter how long they have fallen into service as role players, as Scal has throughout his career. As the NBA -- and pro sports in general -- shows us all too often, all it can take is one dopey distraction to completely derail a team from reaching its goals. The best teams are typically the ones on which everybody knows and accepts his role such that the team can stay focused on the ultimate prize and avoid petty bumps in the road.
Glorified scrub or not -- and justified or not -- Brian Scalabrine could have made his move to the inactive list a lot more of a problem than it was. He could have made this a Brian Scalabrine issue.
But he didn't.
Because this is a team issue, simply a logical decision that needed to be made to help the Celtics keep traveling along the road toward a big run in the springtime.
Because Scal understands that the team's goals come first right now.
Because, regardless of the flaws in his play, Brian Scalabrine is a professional. And this is what professionals do.