The Celtics have been perceived as a potential suitor for two-time All-Star Stephon Marbury since the Knicks point guard was banished from the team before the season.
As it turns out, Boston’s interest is very real — at least according to the player himself.
In a story in today’s New York Post, Marbury said he has received a verbal commitment that he could join the Celtics should he eventually come to terms with the Knicks on a contract buyout. Celtics president Danny Ainge declined comment this afternoon.
The suspended guard is still under contract with the Knicks, but has been given permission to speak to other teams. He also said he believes the Knicks don’t want him to join the Celtics, where he would have a chance of winning a championship.
“It shouldn’t matter that I go to Boston if you’re the eighth seed and Boston is in the front,” Marbury told the Post. “It can’t be about money. The Knicks got plenty of it. It’s got to be personal. If it’s personal, then how is business being done there?
“The question to be asked to the Knicks is: Are they fearful for me playing for another Eastern Conference team? My thing is, they shouldn’t be fearful. They’re trying to get under the cap for 2010. They shouldn’t be worried about me. You had guys saying I was a distraction, I’m a cancer. If I’m all those things, wouldn’t you want me to go to another team?”
Marbury has not played since the preseason. According to the Post, after getting a commitment from the Celtics, he again told the Knicks he would sacrifice $1 million of the remainder of this $21 million salary if they would buy out his contract. Marbury has been paid half of his season’s salary already.
“It’s none of their business what I do when I get out of my deal,” Marbury told the Post. “They say they don’t want to pay me all my money, but they’ll be paying me all my money anyway.”
Marbury wouldn’t break the bank with the Celtics. Due to their luxury tax situation, all the Celtics could offer any free agent is a prorated amount of the veteran’s minimum due. A player like Marbury could command the $1.13 million veteran’s minimum for a player of 10-plus years experience.
The Post speculates that Knicks president Donnie Walsh may be waiting until after the final Celtics-Knicks meeting on Feb. 6 before agreeing to a buyout. Marbury told the newspaper he wonders if the Knicks will not make a move until after the March 2, when he would be ineligible for his new team’s playoff roster.
Marbury also said another NBA team has expressed interest along with the Celtics.
“I know I’ll be able to sign with two teams,” Marbury told The Post.
Chad Finn of the Globe staff contributed to this report.