By Jessica Camerato
This summer the Celtics added one of the biggest names in the game to a roster that already boasted some of the best-known players in the league. But even among high-profile stars like Shaquille ONeal, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (the list goes on), there is one name noticeably absent from the roster. Brian Scalabrine may never have scored 40 points in a game or broken a backboard with a dunk, yet chants of his name filled the Garden for five years. Scalabrine made an impact on Celtics fans during his time in Boston. And, even after signing with the Chicago Bulls last month, he has been impacted by his career there as well. In this exclusive two-part series with CSNNE.com, Scalabrine looked back on his time with the Celtics and looks ahead to the upcoming season with the Bulls.
Brian Scalabrine had been a staple figure on the Celtics bench since signing with the team in 2005. Fans embraced his commitment, and readiness to play at a moment's notice. Whether he was subbing to give a teammate a breather or stepping into the lineup for an injured starter, Scalabrine lived up to the true meaning of a role player.
And being a true role player allowed him to see the bigger picture as the Celtics entered free agency this summer. Scalabrine experienced just how close the C's had come to beating the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA Championship in June, and he knew they had a shot to revamp their roster for another title run.
He considers the acquisition of Shaquille ONeal to be an "unbelievable deal" for the Celtics and thinks Jermaine ONeal and Delonte West will be good additions to the team.
"When you're a championship-caliber team like that, they're looking at a situation where they feel that they can get really good players for a minimum deal," Scalabrine said. "And they did."
Scalabrine thought that had the Celtics beaten the Lakers, he would have been re-signed. But given the fact the C's had to make improvements, especially down low to replace the injured Kendrick Perkins, he understood the team's decisions.
"I think Danny Ainge was really up front with what he was trying to do," Scalabrine said. "He never led me astray or anything like that. He wasn't lying to me, he was being really honest with me. The Celtics have always been a great, upfront, straight organization. They tell you what it's going to be and they do it. He wasn't trying to hide anything, so I really respect him for that and I appreciate him treating me that way."
Even though the Celtics were able to enhance their roster, Scalabrine's presence will still be missed. He brought energy off the bench and averaged nine points and four rebounds in three starts last season while Kevin Garnett was sidelined. During that time, he played through a shoulder injury to stay on the court for the C's.
"I don't think it ever makes sense not to have a Scal on your team," Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com. "The Scalabrines of the world are rare. They are not a dime-a-dozen. When you get one, you do what you can to keep one. Once we made all those moves, we knew we couldn't. But we would love to. He's just a terrific guy."
The respect and admiration is mutual.
"I obviously cherished my time there," he said. "I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being with Doc I learned a ton from him. I enjoyed all of my teammates. I think that those are life experiences that I'll never get another opportunity to go through with a group like that, with a coach like Doc, with a city like Boston, with a team like those guys. Quite honestly, last year I could've played with four Hall of Famers. I don't know if Rajon Rondo makes it or not; he seems on that track. It's just a very, very, very unique situation. I respect every single one of those guys in there and I respect Doc and Danny."
His appreciation for the entire Celtics organization is one of the reasons why he wouldnt mind if the infamous "Scal-a-bri-ne" chants stayed back in Boston. To him, they represent individuality while he is focused on the team.
"People who know me, who really know me, know that that's not really my personality. All my concerns were only about my teammates and my team, the Celtics, the Celtics, the Celtics, the Celtics, he said. "People loved it, and I understand that and why they do those type of things . . . But we're grinding it out, and the Celtics at that point were the most important people to me in the world at that time. So I never want to stand out, I don't want to do things individually to stand out."
What he prefers to do is express his appreciation for everyone who helped make his time in Boston - on and off the court - a success. For Scalabrine, there are the thousands of people who packed the Garden and supported the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship - "We realized that we needed those fans to win" - the fans who always showed respect when they approached him outside of the arena; the season-ticket holders he got to know through various events; the children in the community who taught him he could live with less.
"At the end of the day, it's all about thanks," he said.
Check back with CSNNE.com on Wednesday as Scalabrine looks ahead to the upcoming season with his new team, including how he landed in Chicago, what it's like to play under Tom Thibodeau, and what he thinks about coming back to Boston as a member of the Bulls.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato.