Given Brian Scalabrine’s first couple of years in Boston, you can forgive him if the over-the-top cheers sometimes rang a little more mocking than heartfelt.
After two seasons full of boos and howling disapproval at his mere presence on the court, things turned around for the seldom-used veteran last season. Whenever he entered the game — often late in lopsided contests — the Garden faithful rose to its collective feet and urged him on with the “Scal-a-brin-eee!” chant. Whenever he touched the ball, he was urged to shoot. The farther beyond the 3-point line, the better.
It wasn’t that he minded the cheers, but he didn’t like being asked to look for his shot outside of the team’s offense. Regardless of the score, that’s not ubuntu, he would say — referring to the team’s mantra of putting the whole above the self. That’s not Celtics basketball.
Yet over the past two weeks, any melodramatic enthusiasm for Scalabrine has turned legitimate. Since getting the call as the first player off the bench in the overtime victory in Milwaukee on Nov. 15, he has established himself as part of the extended rotation. During the team’s five-game winning streak entering Wednesday night’s game against Golden State, Scalabrine has averaged about 16 minutes a game, including a 21-minute effort as a spot starter on Nov. 18 against the Knicks while Kevin Garnett served a one-game NBA suspension.
The shot that was a punch line during his first three years in Boston has become a valuable weapon for the team as he’s hit on 9-of-14 attempts over that stretch, including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers.
Once the fans’ whipping boy, he has returned to the crowd favorite he was with the Nets during the first four years of his career.
“With winning comes success in other areas,” said Scalabrine. “We were losing games back then, so I wasn’t the only guy they were hard on. Maybe they were a little bit harder on me. It was a tough time for everybody.”
During last year’s overhaul, he sank farther down the bench and eventually into street clothes as Boston brought Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown on board for the title push.
Scalabrine wasn’t necessarily happy about it — he will remind you the team went 7-2 with him as a starter in place of Garnett while the Defensive Player of the Year battled an abdominal strain midway through last season — but he wasn’t about to put his personal frustration above the team’s goals.
“You could say it was hard, but on the other hand we ended up winning the championship, and both of those guys were a part of it,” he said. “[Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] made a judgment call, and based on us winning the championship, he obviously made the right call.”
Scalabrine shot a career-worst 30.9 percent from the floor in 48 games last year, leading to speculation that he could have been a roster casualty had the Celtics opted to keep free agent Darius Miles, whom they later cut, this season.
“If it were to have happened, I would have understood,” he said. “There would have been absolutely no hard feelings at all. They gave me an opportunity here. Nowadays, people have to learn to be professional about it whether you are happy or not with your playing time. Being a part of this is something special, and for the rest of my life it will be something special.”
While the team had Monday off after back-to-back-to-back blowouts of the Pistons, Timberwolves, and Raptors, Ray Allen was giving away 275 turkeys and Thanksgiving meal items at the Boston Center for Youth & Families.
Allen said this week he didn’t know about the similar tradition Reggie Lewis started at nearby Northeastern University when he played for the Celtics, but he was happy to continue his own Ray of Hope Foundation tradition from his days in Seattle.
“A month or two ago, I told the people that work for me that we needed to do something here, too,” he said. “It’s just something I always want to do because I’ve been blessed in my life and I wanted to help with something that others don’t have.”
Scott Souza covers the Celtics for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports