Brian Scalabrine has been loved and hated; valued and vilified; counted on and counted out.
He was brought in to be a veteran role playing leader. He became a punchline and a scapegoat. He was named on lists of "worst contracts." At one point fans started to give him the old Bronx cheer (cheering in jest).
Then somewhere along the line he became useful again. The cheers became genuine. People actually started counting on him. Now he's back to being a veteran role playing leader. His contract is actually an asset now because it is expiring this year.
The funny thing is, I don't think Brian Scalabrine has changed all that much. He's been poorly fit into an ever changing landscape during his tenure as a Celtic.
In the early years the starting lineup consisted of Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, Raef LaFrentz, and Mark Blount. That lineup plus Gary Payton and Antoine Walker won 45 games and made the playoffs the year before Scal arrived. But Pierce had just pulled his jersey waving, head wrapped in bandages routine and the team was in serious need of some maturity. Scal was a key role player on some successful Nets teams. He was never supposed to be a go to guy, but he was supposed to fill in and be that steady hand off the bench.
Unfortunately that didn't work out. Whatever maturity he brought to the locker room was far outweighed by the strong personalities on that team. The squad quickly imploded and was rightly torn apart by Ainge as he shifted focus to a youth movement. On a team of early-twentysomethings, Scalabrine was once again a bad fit.
I'm not trying to make excuses for Scal, mind you. There were times when he played like he was trying to force it. Like he was trying to justify his contract. The losing and the fan reaction had to weigh on him and I think his play suffered from it. But every single person that's been around the team will tell you what a class guy he is. He never took it out on anyone, he just did his job.
So when the team got good again, he was able to step in and provide some valuable backup minutes at both of the forward positions. He even started for a few games in KG's absence 2 years ago (which allowed Doc to maintain most of his rotations). When the team added PJ Brown, Scal didn't complain when he was put on the inactive list. In fact, he delivered one of the funniest Finals post game interviews I can remember (pushing Kobe back a few minutes).
He was just getting rolling last year when multiple concussions derailed his season. It is a shame too, because a fully healthy Scal could have played the role of a poor man's Posey. In fact, I think that is one of the elements that Ainge was counting on last summer (along with Tony Allen's progression) that didn't play out as he had hoped.
So where does that leave us today? That depends. What do you want from Brian Scalabrine?
Do you want him to be a valuable backup forward? He can backup Pierce and also give us added depth at power forward. Do you want him to step aside and give more time to Bill Walker? Scal will happily tutor the young lad and wave a towel on the bench. Do you want to use his expiring contract to pick up a player at the trade deadline? Pair him with Tony Allen and you can swipe a $7M player away from a team hemorrhaging money (call it the Redhead Bailout Plan). Want him to play some point guard? Well, everyone has their limits.
I think Scal will help this team in a number of ways this year. He's also the kind of guy I'd like to see get into coaching when his career is over (like Sam Cassell). Here's hoping that he gets one more shot at that podium after the Finals.