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If there was one prospective summer acquisition for the Celtics that really made me queasy, it was a certain point guard from Coney Island and cousin of a former Celtic.
Big sigh of relief on that account. While NBA executives aren't exactly known for being super-candid, all indications seem to be that the New York Knicks will in fact be keeping Stephon Marbury.
Team president Donnie Walsh met with season ticket holders this past week, and Newsday's Alan Hahn reported the following courtesy of a reader of his at the event:
Walsh said that Marbury has been a very good player in this league, and he's not sure what has happened here but he's worked hard this summer and has a clean slate. They want to see what he can do when he gets to training camp.
So it sounds like they are keeping Marbury around for awhile.
That sounds absolutely wonderful for this Celts fan. But it's nothing short of purely baffling for the Knicks.
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As little sense as it would have made for the Celtics to bring Marbury to town, it might make even less for the Knicks to keep the guy.
There was at least the argument made by some Steph proponents that the Celtics could bring him in as a back-up for a minimum deal if the Knicks bought him out and make it clear to him that if he stepped out of line, he was gone. There was some belief that his immense physical talents could have been used for purely good on a team with strong leadership and the ability to wave good-bye to him if needed. For my part, I'm not a supporter of that argument and believe that the guy is and always will be more trouble than he is worth. But the concept was understandable.
The same can't be said for the Knicks - with the only possible exception being the end goal of keeping Marbury's expiring contract. But we'll get to that in a bit.
For now, it just remains striking that Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni are willing to start off their new regime this way. While the idea of clean slates is nice in principle, it is painfully clear that Marbury has long since worn out his welcome in New York. He has alienated both the fan base and the reporters, which means that the renowned New York media will only be keying on everything he does with even greater scrutiny, leading to more distractions for the 'Bockers. More importantly, Marbury has alienated his teammates as there remains a large portion of the group that voted soundly not to reinstate him after he went MIA last season (though in his infinite wisdom, Isiah Thomas overruled the team).
He doesn't get along with the brand new coach. Mike D'Antoni coached him in Phoenix and reportedly couldn't wait to have Starbury shown the door. Hard to imagine much has changed.
Steph also isn't the player he once was. He is 30 years old and neither the dynamic scorer nor passer he was in the prime of his career. He has never been known for playing well within the team framework or for being particularly coachable. And the asset of his that most helps him fit with D'Antoni's system is that he doesn't guard anybody. Not exactly something to be encouraged.
Yes, Marbury's expiring contract has nearly $22 million on it, and if the Knicks are truly committed to digging out of salary cap purgatory, they could keep him on the roster and let the money roll off the books. But they could also likely trade him for pretty good value and do their best not to take on too much long-term salary in return, or they could keep him on the roster but make him as little a part of this team as possible. Giving him a shot to play a prominent and possibly starting role is where the questions start.
Stephon Marbury is a guy who isn't going to be a part of the long-term future in New York. He isn't a team guy, isn't an elite point guard these days and likely won't take this team in any way toward the direction in which it needs to move. Starting him for a season would seem most conducive to stagnating the Knicks' progress as a team under the new D'Antoni-Walsh command. Besides clearing cap room come next July, it's hard to imagine anything good coming out of this one for the Knicks.
Which sounds just fine for those of us living life through green-tinted glasses.