Catching up with Brian Scalabrine: Part 1

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Catching up with Brian Scalabrine: Part 1

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

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.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”
 

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.