"When Steph was at his best, he was a nightmare for a lot of players," Paul Pierce said. "If he comes and we can integrate him in what we are trying to do, he's going to be a plus."
The Celtics acknowledge that Marbury arrives with heavy baggage. He was suspended by the Knicks in November for allegedly refusing to play in a game and has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 11, 2008.
But there are numerous reasons the Celtics are eager to overlook the past to give Marbury, 32, an opportunity to join them in their chase for
Marbury was slated to make $21 million this season with the Knicks before agreeing to a buyout. The Celtics will only pay him a prorated veteran's minimum of $1.3 million. So if things go wrong quickly, it would be easy financially for Boston to waive him and move on. It would behoove Marbury to be on his best behavior and play well since he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"We have a great group and a high-character team," coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday. "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."
While reserves Eddie House, Glen Davis, and Leon Powe have shined offensively at times, the Celtics do not have a consistent scorer off the bench. In Marbury, the Celtics add an explosive scorer with a career average of 19.7 points.
"That's a big plus for us," Pierce said. "You're talking about a guy who can knock down shots, get to the lane, and find people. He's an extraordinary talent when he's on his game."
Said Ray Allen: "He's going to have open shots. The game here is simple."
Although House is one of the NBA's best 3-point shooters, he has issues bringing the ball up the floor against defensive pressure. But in a reserve backcourt with Marbury, House can allow Marbury to bring up the ball and initiate the offense. Marbury has averaged 7.8 assists in his career. On defense, the 6-foot-2-inch Marbury will defend the shooting guards and House will take the point guards.
"It can work," House said. "It doesn't add any pressure on me after [Marbury brings] up the ball. I can just come off [screens] and just
shoot the ball and do what I do. Either way, I can bring up the ball and he can come [off screens]. It will work out good."
"We just need another guard," Rivers said. "The reason you need another guard, especially a guard that can play the point guard position, is it helps Eddie."
Guard Tony Allen is out until the playoffs after thumb surgery. Marbury should be able to surpass Allen's offense (7.8 points per game). And with injuries to Kevin Garnett (knee) and Brian Scalabrine (concussion, neck), the Celtics will have 12 roster players with the addition of Marbury.
"It's a health issue with Tony," Rivers said. "And the fact that he is not going to be back until the playoffs start, having played no games [recently], that's a difficult position to put Tony in."
Rivers likes to have either Pierce or Ray Allen on the floor for offense, which adds to their minutes.
"We got to get someone who is able to get them some rest," Rivers said. "There are too many games where I had to extend them to 40 minutes. That's a number I don't like them getting to."
Rivers had a long talk with starting point guard Rajon Rondo Wednesday to assure him his position is secure. After going through a similar situation with the arrival of veteran Sam Cassell late last season, Rondo isn't looking over his shoulder.
"Whatever it takes to get the ring," Rondo said. "I'm a team player. I'm all about winning, honestly. I'm not a selfish player. This is
my third year in the league, I've won a championship already. I'm not settling or anything. I'm not complacent on anything as well. But I'm accepting of my role and confident in what I do."
The Celtics plan on giving Marbury a clean slate and will let him know team play is required over individuality.
"His reputation has been a guy in the locker room who kills locker rooms," Pierce said. "But I don't think he's ever had the type of guys he's going to be around at this point in his career. He's looking at this as an opportunity of a lifetime with these types of players. I don't think it's something he's going to risk."
Garnett and Marbury were close-knit teammates in Minnesota. Although Garnett has acknowledged their friendship isn't as tight, respect remains and Garnett would be expected to help the "Starbury" experiment work.
"They acted like they were college roommates," said Mikki Moore, who was in Minnesota's training camp in 1997.
Boston fans have accepted stars with baggage, i.e. the Patriots' Randy Moss, especially if they produce and win.
"I expect them to cheer," Pierce said. "He's going to have a Celtics jersey on now and I expect the fans to really cheer him. It's been a long time since he's stepped on the court. We don't have anything against him. The things that he's done in New York happened in New York. We welcome him to the family if and when it happens and go from there."
Marbury's prayers have been answered with an opportunity to play for the Celtics. They are optimistic he can answer their prayers, too.