Brian Scalabrine is not a very talented basketball player. He's not overly athletic or surprisingly quick. When he rises up to dunk the basketball, our eyes open wide with surprise, rather than with awe. And when he dons a white headband, the jokes fly.
So what exactly is Brian Scalabrine? He's a jump shooting role player. Period. That's about all we can hope to expect from Scal. When he signed a 15 million dollar contract back in 2005, expectations were obviously high. We had just spent 15 million on this former New Jersey Net. Surely, for 15 million, he would add a new dimension to our rebuilding effort, right? Unfortunately, Brian Scalabrine joined the Celtics at the worst possible time for him as an individual and for the Celtics as an organization.
He entered a locker room that featured Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis and Wally Szczerbiak. He also entered a locker room that featured Tony Allen, Gerald Green, Justin Reed and Oriene Greene. The 2005-2006 Boston Celtics were bogged down with young, promising talent. Brian Scalabrine was never meant to play with young, promising talent, like the way Mark Hamill was never meant to act in a movie without the words "Star" and "Wars" in the title. Brian Scalabrine was meant to play with proven veterans. And that's exactly why he will find success this season.Scal's first two years as a Celtic were defined by exploitation. His inability to create his own shot was exploited. His overall lack of talent was exploited. It didn't take long for Celtics fans to realize Danny Ainge might have just made a 15 million dollar mistake. When surrounded by youth, the expectations for Scal rose to a level he never would have been able to reach. Amidst players a year removed from asking girls to the senior prom, who knew little of executing NBA offensive and defensive schemes, Scal was now one of the oldest players on the floor and with that experience and knowledge of the game came raised expectations. As a result, Scal arguably suffered worse than anyone through the defensive break downs and botched offensive possessions.
When the team took an absolute nose dive a year later and finished with a 24-58 record, Scal was practically the laughing stock of Boston. We knew Pierce would deliver regardless of the scenario and Delonte West and Al Jefferson had potential. At least we had hope for players like those. But Scal? Scal was just there. He was the slightly pudgy red head who served as the face of the washed up 20 and 30 somethings who still believed they had an outside shot of playing in the NBA. With such a young team, Scal might have just served better as an assistant coach on the bench, rather than as a player in the game.
Then, a funny thing happened. Over the course of six weeks the following summer, the youth was shipped out of town in exchange for proven veteran talent. Unfortunately, Celtics fans' preconceptions and cemented opinions of Scal weren't changing as quickly as the team's title hopes. Now, instead of being the waste of money on a young team, he was simply the waste of money on an older team capable of winning a championship.
However, slowly but surely, amidst the heckling, the sarcastic cheers and the "Scal-a-brine!" chants, Scal's strengths on the court took shape over the next two seasons. He started in place of an injured Kevin Garnett back in '08 and provided some much necessary relief in the playoffs last season when he returned from post concussion syndrome. That's right, Brian Scalabrine was serving as the relief. And we were happy to have him. Especially now that he was playing alongside veterans.
And now that Boston's bench has been bolstered this season by Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House, Marquis Daniels and Glen Davis, Scal finds himself in the best possible scenario. Finally, at long last, he can do what he was meant to do for the Celtics. He can serve as the fifth best player on the second unit, with no heightened pressure or expectations.
Scal fits in very well with this season's second unit. His main responsibility will be to take and make open shots when they present themselves, particularly three-pointers. He's not capable of carrying a unit by himself nor is he even capable of playing a truly substantial role with a unit. But with the current make up of the bench, he doesn't need to worry about initiating the offense or even serving as a staple or main stay of the offense. All he has to do is take advantage of his opportunities when they present themselves.
The pressure facing the second unit this season resides solely on Wallace, House, Daniels and Davis. They will always comprise the gut of the second five. Even before the season began we were certain those four players would be the first four off the bench. The fifth player was a mystery until training camp. Would it be Shelden Williams? Tony Allen? Lester Hudson? Nope. Apparently it will be Brian Scalabrine.
With Scal playing alongside the four heavy hitters, he'll never need to worry about the defense focusing on him and the offense will never run through him. At best, he'll find himself on a hot streak and knock down two or three straight three-point shots. Occasionally 'Sheed and co. might ride Scal's hot hand. But that will be the extent of Scal's output this season.
And we'll be satisfied with that. Who would complain with Scal averaging between six and nine points this season? Who will complain with Scal putting in two or three baskets from three-point nation every game? Against the Knicks last Friday he shot 3-4 from deep and finished with nine points. I was enthralled by such a performance. The hot streaks he might find himself on every now and then could be huge, especially if they come about late in the third quarter and help the C's build a comfortable lead heading into the final period. There's a legitimate chance we'll see Scal in the game with the second unit during that time. Maybe that's when he'll be able to do some damage.
I suppose I wouldn't be allowed to write this if I didn't mention it's a contract year for Scal. Okay, let's move on now.
Don't count Scal out on the defensive end, either. I will always applaud Scal's hustle and energy on the opposite side of the ball and he's very adept when it comes to guarding versatile big men, like the Dirk Nowitzkis and the Mehmet Okurs of the league. At 6'9, he's tall enough to contest their shots, quick enough to scamper around the perimeter with them and strong enough to bang down low should they attempt to post him up. And if all else fails down low, Wallace should be lying in the weeds with an extra serving of help defense.
Maybe the term "breakout" is a little strong for Scal. He'll still be overpaid regardless of his production this season. But nevertheless, the increased production I'm expecting should be enough for us to no longer harp on the fact that his stats have yet to live up to his cash. Instead, when we reminisce on this season, we'll think of Scal and smile to ourselves at how he managed to turn it all around when the situation was finally right.