Camp started early for new Celtic Brian Scalabrine. The forward, who agreed to a five-year, $15 million deal with Boston two weeks ago, spent Tuesday conducting a basketball clinic at the Seeds of Peace International camp in Otisfield, Maine. The three-week retreat for teenagers from the Middle East teaches the importance of coexistence among people of different races and religions. Scalabrine has visited the camp for the last three summers, well before his professional allegiances connected him to New England.
But in light of the Celtics' young roster, giving lessons in coexistence to a group of teenagers seemed the best kind of preparation for the NBA season ahead. During his time at Seeds of Peace, Scalabrine is an enthusiastic leader, going so far as to designate himself captain of the clinic while showing campers the right way to play. The Celtics hope he brings the same passion and commitment to his new team. Speaking for the first time since coming to terms with Boston, Scalabrine said he will do exactly that regardless of his role.
''I'm trying to play as great a role as possible, whatever that is," said Scalabrine. ''I'm one of those guys that will do whatever I have to do to fit in with the team. I have high expectations for myself and I know they do, too. The reason we play this game is so we can work and get better and have an opportunity to go to an organization to play and do well.
''I look at it like this: Everybody in the NBA would want me on their team. I could be a functional starter for an NBA team. I could also, in a certain situation, be a 12th man on a team, not that I would want to be a 12th man. If I was 12th man, I feel like I would do that role the best. Wherever I am slotted, coming off the bench, helping out the young fellas, starting, whatever, I feel that I will be a guy that will be a good teammate."
To back up his point, Scalabrine mentioned that last year the Nets won 10 of the 14 games he started. But in all likelihood, the 6-foot-9-inch, 235-pound Scalabrine will serve as a backup at both forward positions. Still, it is easy to question a five-year commitment to a career reserve who averaged 6.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game last season. Scalabrine answers potential critics by calling numbers meaningless when assessing his value.
''You can't look at numbers at all," said Scalabrine. ''I can have the greatest season in the world and not score a lot of points, but I do the right things, like play off the ball and get other people involved. Or, on the other hand, I can score a lot of points and have a bad season, defensively not getting on the glass. Numbers are deceiving. I'm telling you right now, the Boston Celtics and any other team that was interested in signing me wasn't going to sign me based on numbers. They were going to sign me based on my knowledge of the game, my feel for the game, and the respect I have for the game of basketball and how hard I play."
Of the teams that showed interest in signing Scalabrine, the Celtics probably had the most insight into his character. Scalabrine has long believed in the work of Jon Niednagel, a.k.a. the Brain Doctor, who serves as a Celtics consultant. According to Niednagel, Scalabrine shares a similar brain type with the likes of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. When he played poorly, Scalabrine often called Niednagel for suggestions.
''[Niednagel] has helped [executive director of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] a lot and that will help me a lot," said Scalabrine. ''I have very high expectations for myself. When I'm not playing well, I'll call Jon and we'll discuss certain things and he'll kind of help me out.
''When we were doing this whole thing and I talked to Danny, he told me, 'I know what you're like and I know what you need to do to be successful.' Looking at it from that standpoint, I have to believe in him and say, 'What can he do to help me out?' I do believe in the Brain Doctor and believe that Danny and the Brain Doctor know what they're talking about. So, if there are certain things they can do to help me out, I'm certainly willing to do them."