Marbury answers call
He talks about a new beginning with Celtics
One of the most memorable scenes in NBA draft history happened in 1996, when Stephon Marbury cried tears of joy with his family after he was picked. Thirteen years later, the two-time All-Star said he is feeling similar joy on the eve of a new beginning with the Celtics.
Marbury told the Globe last night he would be in Boston early this morning after driving from New York City. Marbury, 32, planned to be at shootaround in Waltham after clearing waivers at 10 a.m. Then he'll sign with the Celtics for a prorated veteran's minimum of $1.3 million after being embroiled in an ugly suspension and buyout with the Knicks that ended Tuesday. The 6-foot-2-inch Marbury said whether he is available to play against Indiana tonight remains to be seen, but he's ready.
He spoke with the Globe over the phone last night:
Q: How excited are you about coming to the Celtics?
SM: "This is the happiest I've been since being drafted, man. I'm so happy that it doesn't even feel real. It feels, it just feels like, it feels different to finally be able to get the opportunity to go play for a team that's established. Everyone is on the same page. There is one goal, and that's winning a ring, winning the trophy.
"I'm walking into an environment where it's stable, controlled by the players because the players police themselves. You don't have to have the coach police what is going on. Everyone seems to have it together and it looks like a family. That's what it's all about."
Q: What would you say to your skeptics who wonder why the Celtics are signing you despite your past problems?
SM: "That's OK. That's just a perspective that has been adapted from what someone else told them. If they weren't there and weren't in that circle, then they don't know."
Q: How does it feel to go to a team that is pretty much drama-free?
SM: "You don't know how good it feels to know that it's just one thing, to have fun. [Kevin Garnett] was like, 'Basketball is going to be fun again, kid.' Man, I can't wait. I'm so excited. I haven't slept in like three days."
Q: Are you in shape? Could you play against Indiana [tonight]?
SM: "I'm a hooper. It's just like playing inside the park. You play. I came in camp at 197 [pounds] and I'm at 199 [now]. I didn't gain any weight. I made sure I worked out, I was lifting weights, shooting the ball. I shot [Wednesday]. I'm not going to say that I'm in basketball shape or can play 30 minutes. But can I go play? Yeah, I can go play."
Q: If this chapter ends with a championship, have you thought about how emotional you could be?
SM: "I don't know what I'd do. I think teams that watch me, they understand about me that I'm a straight shooter. They might not like that. But at the end of the day I'd rather people respect me. I'm not a liar. If I played like [garbage], I played like [garbage]. To win a championship, that's what you do it for."
Q: What will it be like to wear the Celtics uniform?
SM: "It's historical. I don't even know how to explain that. I'm so humbled by it. I'm grateful for the opportunity. If you look at the teams that we had there with [Larry] Bird, [Kevin] McHale and [Dennis] Johnson and Danny Ainge, it's like, wow, this is the type of team that is formulating to that style of team. And with the additions they are trying to add, bringing on a guy like Mikki Moore, who is a great energy player, I just want to come in, help, and be one of the pieces that fit into the puzzle, that's all."
Q: How do you feel about coming off the bench?
SM: "I don't care what they ask me to do. I'll play 20 minutes or I'll play 15. It doesn't matter who is scoring or who is doing what. It's about one common goal: to win."
Q: How big is your smile?
SM: "I've been ear to ear. [Friends] were like, 'Ah, you never smiled when you were on the court [with New York].' We were losing. What would I be smiling about? Who wants to smile when you're losing? That's not fun."
Q: Talk about your situation with the Knicks. New president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni didn't seem interested in playing you this season. They suspended you after you reportedly refused to play in a game and lastly you had a lengthy buyout process.
SM: "I came ready to play this [season]. They didn't want to utilize me. I was like, 'OK, no problem. I will just stay here and wait until you guys figure something out.' Till this day, I don't have any bad feelings, even with what they've done to me. It wasn't like I came to camp and I said, 'I'm not going to start. I'm not going to play. I don't want to this, I want to make a deal.'
"I said, 'All right, I understand and it's cool that you didn't want to play me because he brought in Chris Duhon.' I just felt that the situation there was different. It's cool, they brought in another player at my position. They told me they were going to buy me out and they didn't [initially]. I ended up going to camp and [D'Antoni] didn't want to play me and Donnie Walsh thought I was going to play.
"Those two guys weren't on the same page. The president and coach weren't on the same page and I got the blame for it. So what am I supposed to do? I'm the bad guy because I'm voicing my opinion about how I feel about the situation as far as moving forward? So I said, 'No problem, I'll sit here, get some rest, stay in shape, and do what I need to do until you guys buy me out or trade me.
"After they didn't buy me out, [they] were supposed to waive me. They didn't even say they were going to buy me out, they said, 'Oh, we're going to waive him.' So I was like, 'If you're going to waive me, let me go.' Let me go, let me get my money, and I'll go about my business. I wanted peace, that's all. I've went through enough drama and the last thing I wanted to go through was drama. I didn't want that. I didn't have the energy or the strength to do it. I was still recovering from my mentor's death, my aunt's death, and my father's death all in one year. The situation with Isiah [Thomas], with the 'he sent me home' thing and then he didn't. I was like, 'Come on, man, you need to do this. Let me go.' "
Marc J. Spears can be reached at email@example.com