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Marbury answers call

He talks about a new beginning with Celtics

UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): The Celtics announced today that they have signed free agent guard Stephon Marbury. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. "We are very excited to have a player of Stephon's caliber joining our team. Our entire organization is confident in the belief that Stephon can play an important role in helping us to win another championship," said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. The two-time All-Star, who will wear No. 8 with the Celtics, is undergoing a physical this afternoon and is expected to attend a closed practice at TD Banknorth Garden at 5 p.m. before tonight's game against Indiana. It remains uncertain if Marbury will be in uniform tonight, but given that the Celtics have just 11 players in uniform, it's possible that they may need him to suit up in case of an emergency situation. Marbury and coach Doc Rivers are scheduled to meet with reporters at 5:45 p.m., when his status will likely become clearer. Marbury, a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound guard, is in his 13th season in the NBA and has posted career averages of 19.7 points and 7.8 assists per game. The 32-year-old 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. He needed surgery for bone spurs that ended his 2007-08 season, and with the arrival of president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni during the offseason, the Knicks wanted to move on from the Marbury era and start fresh. He was bought out of his contract Tuesday. The Celtics became intrigued with Marbury in the preseason when he averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 assists and went to the free throw line regularly in seven games. He scored 16 points against Boston in an Oct. 21 game, but last played in a preseason game against New Jersey Oct. 24. He was suspended by the Knicks shortly thereafter.
By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 27, 2009
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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 mspears@globe.com

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