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Marbury is biding time

He says he'll speak when time is right

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 26, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - After Stephon Marbury's outspokenness seemed to hurt more than help in New York, the former Knicks guard would rather be quiet now than speak frankly about what could be in Boston.

If everything goes as expected and Marbury signs with the Celtics tomorrow, he said he will gladly answer questions.

Celtics president Danny Ainge has had contract discussions with NBA Players' union deputy counsel Hal Biagas, who is serving as Marbury's agent. An NBA source said if Marbury clears waivers tomorrow and signs with the Celtics for a prorated veteran's minimum of $1.3 million, he could play against Indiana tomorrow. Marbury acknowledged he is in New York City working out.

Marbury told the Globe via e-mail yesterday he won't speak on the record until he is a free agent.

"Some people think it's a foregone conclusion," coach Doc Rivers said of Marbury coming to the Celtics. "Honestly, I hope it is. But until it is, we will wait and see. Once upon a time he was a talented player. We hope he can help us. So we'll see."

The Celtics believe Marbury can apply the positive energy needed to be a major contributor this season. Marbury, 32, averaged 13.9 points and 4.7 assists in 24 games for the Knicks last season, but he hasn't played in a regular-season game since Jan. 11, 2008.

"The talent of Marbury is undeniable," Paul Pierce said. "He's been one of the best point guards. And we feel when you get him around the veteran group we have around here that things will become different. I have been able to become a different player with the veterans we acquired and I feel the same about him."

Said Ray Allen: "Stephon has been an extraordinary talent during his career. He definitely can help us. It will be interesting when he gets here. I know what it was like with me making the adjustment here, Kevin [Garnett] making the adjustment, even Paul making the adjustment. Stephon has been a franchise player and if he can make the adjustment to the situation, he can definitely help us."

Marbury fell into the doghouse of then-Knicks coach Isiah Thomas during the 2007-08 season. With Thomas gone, new Knicks president Donnie Walsh and new coach Mike D'Antoni preferred a new script without Marbury last offseason. After being suspended from the team for allegedly refusing to play in a game, Marbury was outspoken about his disappointment. He eventually worked out a buyout Tuesday.

Few question Marbury's ability. But many skeptics wonder if Marbury will fit in with the Celtics or be a distraction. Pierce said a point will be made to Marbury and newcomer Mikki Moore, who was signed Tuesday, that the Celtics are about sacrificing, understanding your role, and winning. Pierce also said the players police each other in private if needed.

"We are very strong-minded individuals," Allen said. "We keep a lot of what's going on off the court out of the locker room. We all got stuff that is going on with our lives, but when we come in we know it's time to focus."

On chemistry concerns, Pierce said: "You think about that with any player. You think about that with Mikki. We're playing well as a unit. We thought about it with P.J. [Brown last season]. We thought about it with Sam [Cassell] a year ago. It's about the players around here helping him get used to the system, helping him understand what we're trying to do around here and the reason why we are winning."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers asked Pierce, Allen, and Kevin Garnett their opinions of Marbury. All three said they wanted to add him to the team.

"We know the talent he possesses," Allen said. "We know what it's like to guard him, to play against him over the years. Having him on our side, we can put him in situations where he can be even better."

Rivers is confident a player with a different personality can blend in with his team.

"We have a great group and a high-character team," Rivers said. "This team can absorb it. And if we can't, then we'll find it out as well. We still have enough time to make changes. That part doesn't concern us. Every player that comes here has to commit to winning. Not winning for himself or making themselves better. And probably in a lot of ways they have to give up some of their game to play for us. If you can't do that, you won't be here long."

Marbury and Eddie House got into some trash-talking during a preseason game between the Knicks and Celtics. House said bygones are bygones.

"We're not rivals," House said. "That was preseason. It's in the past and if he's going to be a part of this family, he's in this family. He's on a winning team."

Will the Celtics be better with Marbury and Moore than they were last season?

"We're going to have to find out," Pierce said. "We can say that at the end of the year if we win a championship. Definitely, with Marbury you add an All-Star-caliber player. On paper, you can say yes. But until it all comes together, we have to see."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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