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Slow going for Banks

WALTHAM -- Marcus Banks built his reputation on speed, starring for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels on the fast track to becoming an NBA lottery pick. But as the Celtics' rookie point guard, Banks quickly is learning the value of patience. So far, training camp has proven the truth of the motto "everything in due time." While Antoine Walker calls Banks "definitely the point guard of the future," it's not exactly sure when that future will be.

Banks talks in terms of games and years. At this extremely early juncture of his professional career, he knows only one thing for sure. Time is on his side. And there remains plenty of it.

"It's just the transition from college to the NBA," said Banks. "It's just about how fast you learn and, of course, you're going to not catch on too fast. I've got plenty of time, almost 90 something games. I'll take my time and everything will come to me. I'll be all right. When I was in college, I went through the same thing; it's going to take five, six, seven, eight, nine games. It's going to take 20, 30 practices before you start growing as a person and a player and that starts affecting your basketball.

"The pressure that I feel is I just want to impact the team right off the bat. But it's going to take time. It took Kobe Bryant four or five years to become a great player. It took Tracy McGrady four or five years and he had to sit on the bench.

"It took Paul [Pierce] three years. It took Antoine three or four years. So, every player has to go through that stage where it's a learning process. The only thing that can prepare you for this is games and games and practices and practices. That's it."

Banks remains the charmingly cocky kid who left a lasting impression in his first Celtics press conference, though his perspective on himself and the league clearly has been tempered, and a bit skewed, by recent experiences. For the record, coming out of high school Bryant became an All-Star his second year in the league. Walker also received All-Star honors his sophomore season. But Banks was technically correct with McGrady and Pierce. It did take them a few years to mature into the big-time players they are now. And let's not forget, the preseason is only a few exhibition games old.

According to director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, it's "way too early to make even initial judgments." At the same time, Ainge acknowledged yesterday that Banks has "struggled at times for sure." There were the eight turnovers against Chicago and the four vs. Detroit. And there has been some general confusion when Banks takes the floor with younger, less experienced teammates. The rookie point guard has looked best when paired with veterans. But overall, Banks has not been helped by the fact that the Celtics are just beginning to install a half-court offense.

Ainge and coach Jim O'Brien are taking the long view regarding Banks and emphasizing the positive. Banks is averaging 8.7 points and 1.7 assists in the exhibition season. He also did not commit a turnover against Indiana. Ainge and O'Brien recognize the high expectations placed upon the player slated to direct the Celtics' new up-tempo style and they don't want to add any extra pressure.

"I would say there's one thing that I would like Marcus to do and that's relax," said Ainge. "I think Marcus is going to be fine and I am just as excited now as I was when we drafted him. He does things you can't teach. He beats his man off the dribble and gets into the paint. His penetration and explosiveness are things you can't teach."

Added O'Brien: "He is where he is. I didn't have a pace for him . . . He'll get there. He's a smart kid. He's hungry. He's a good listener. He wants to get better. The coaches spend extra time in the video room with him, explaining his mistakes. If you try to force any number of things down somebody's throat, it not a good learning experience. It's just a gradual process."

That said, O'Brien plans to give Banks significant minutes, though the coach declined to discuss who would start the season at point guard. Again, the overriding message is patience. Don't forget, Banks was asked to play his first exhibition game after only five days of practice with the veterans.

"[Banks] has to be brought into the thing slowly," said Walker. "You can't just throw him into the fire and a lot of people can't be expecting a lot from him. It's very difficult for a rookie to come in and play on a team where the ball is dominated by two players. He has to find a way he's going to be effective in the system. What a lot of people have got to understand is guys are brought in to fit into me and Paul."

Fitting in with the two All-Stars on his own team is just one of the many challenges Banks faces. To him, it's a league filled with All-Stars and a level much more competitive than what he saw in the Mountain West Conference.

"From college to the NBA, everybody's bigger, everybody's stronger, everybody's faster," said Banks. "In college, if you work harder than the next guy, you're one of the most talented players on the court. At this level, this is like the best player at every school. Every guy was an All-Star at his school. It's just buying into the system, taking it day-by-day. You know, everything's going to be OK." . . .

Walter McCarty sat out practice with a sore and swollen right knee, the result of knee-on-knee contact in practice last week. Tony Delk, who had just recovered from a strained right abductor, suffered a strained right calf against Indiana and also did not participate in yesterday's 2 1/2-hour workout.

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