By now, he's almost bulletproof. That's not to say that Marcus Banks is immune to what the Celtics guard calls the "constructive criticism" that comes from one and all and every direction. But after a season with the coach, several assistants, and several players offering their "thoughts" on his play, let's just say he feels like he's seen -- and heard -- just about everything.
"I get it every day," he said. "Even if it's not my fault, I still get it. You can't go into a shell when someone yells at you. It's not just Doc [Rivers]. I get it from Paul [Pierce]. I get it from Ricky [Davis]. I get it from Gary [Payton]. I get it from all the coaches. That's nine or 10 guys on me right there. Only thing I can do is listen to the good stuff and throw the bad stuff out."
As we saw in Game 1 of the Pacers series Saturday night, some of the "constructive criticism" and "good stuff" has been taken to heart. Banks was a certifiable difference-maker in the opener, spearheading the Celtics' second-quarter surge, which turned a tight game into a 102-82 rout for the hosts. The Celtics hit the Pacers with a 14-1 run in the first 3:01 of the second, during which Banks had 8 points (including 3-pointers 34 seconds apart) as well as two assists and a steal. Indiana never recovered.
Did he realize the extent of the damage he was causing?
"I knew exactly what I was doing," he said yesterday after the Celtics prepped for Game 2 tonight. "I do it every day in practice. I pick guys up full-court and try to cause havoc. We fought and they didn't fight back. That's why we won. Just doing my job."
Oh, if it were that easy, Banks wouldn't have been a human dartboard all season. No one has taken more heat than the second-year point guard, in part because of his enormous potential, in part because of the position he plays, and, frankly, in part because he always projected an air that he was better than he really was.
There were nights like the Nov. 12 game against Charlotte, when he had 13 points and four assists in 17 minutes. He then made one field goal in the next six games and registered a DNP in the seventh. That was not the same player we're seeing now. We're seeing a much more confident kid out there.
"The better we play, the longer we stay out," he said, referring to the second unit that turned around Game 1. "That's the way I feel. I want to stay on the court as long as possible and the only way for me to do that is to pick up the defensive intensity, get stops, and run the offense."
That doesn't sound too difficult. But Banks is usually out there with rookies. There are times when he fails to utilize his most devastating weapon -- his speed. There are times when it looks as if his decision-making process has gone into seizure.
And there are times when he blows through the opposition unimpeded, making it look so easy.
It is those two sides of Banks that have made him such an easy target for criticism. As he put it yesterday, "If [Rivers] was quiet, then he obviously doesn't care. If he's trying to tell me to do the right thing, tell me the right thing, he wants me to be a good player. I'll listen to him.
"I learn to take it as constructive criticism."
Said Rivers, a former point guard, "Some guys take it, some guys don't. The guys who don't usually don't stick around long. Marcus has been great. He's been told a lot this year; I'd say it that way. And he's accepted it."
Agreed Pierce: "He never got down on himself, even though coaches would get down on him, players would get down on him. He stayed strong and he came to work every day. He's starting to see the fruits of his labor."
The real test will be if Banks again can be the destructive force he was in Game 1 and if the Banks-led substitutes again can dominate as they did in Game 1. (The Boston bench outscored the Indiana bench by the rather remarkable margin of 29-2 in the first half.) Even if they do, when the Celtics report for practice tomorrow, Banks is reasonably certain there will be some message for him.
"It's not going to stop," Banks said. "I don't think Doc believes I've reached my full potential yet. So until that point, I think he'll stay on me. At least for a couple more years."