When the Boston Celtics signed Stephon Marbury back on February 27, 2009, a lot regarding his character and impact on the Celtics' title defense was questioned. However, if anyone was following the New York Knicks early on in the year, he seemed to be a more mature player.
Willing to accept a back up role to Chris Duhon, a player who isn't even his caliber, because he did not want to upset the Knicks new coach Mike D'Antoni and Knicks management. Duhon has even stated in preseason how much Marbury had helped him and embraced him.
That was not good enough for coach D'Antoni, who apparently believed his personal dislike for Marbury was more important than the team's win/loss record which dropped late in the season due to him burning out the career back up Duhon, and benched Marbury for the season.
After signing with Boston, For the most part, he seemed rusty and hesitant to shoot the ball, likely trying to shake the selfish image that has been bestowed on him, but he was being hesitant to a fault most would say. He did however have the support of Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Something he did not have previously in New York with D'Antoni.
For someone who was benched most of the year over in New York, as well as missing a huge portion of last season due to injuries and his father's death, playing in the playoffs for the defending world champions was a sigh of relief for the Coney Island native.
In the first round vs the Chicago Bulls, he didn't get much playing time playing behind Rajon Rondo, but in Game Three he was needed to provide a boost and that he did.
He played 24 minutes finishing with 13 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and zero turnovers, doing most of the damage in the second quarter helping the Celtics cruise to a 107-86 victory.
"I'm just happy for Steph," Rivers said. "You know the history. But you could see the guys pulling for him all game. He's playing a team game, he's fit in with this group. And he really hasn't had any chance in this playoff, so far, to play or play well—and he did that [Thursday] night.
"And I was just thrilled, but as happy as I was, I thought our team was happy for him as well."
Then, Game Seven on May 2, it finally happened. Marbury and the Celtics made it past the first round, eliminating the Bulls in perhaps the greatest playoff series ever. Going seven games and seven overtime periods, crushing the previous record of two overtime periods in a first round series.
There was Marbury again. Not the star of the game, but ran the offense in a critical 22-2 second-quarter run. "Steph saved it," Rivers said. "He saved the day in that stretch. He came in and played terrific for us. So, you know, in a series that our bench hadn't given us much, they were phenomenal."
In the first game of a best of seven series in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs the Orlando Magic, Steph got called upon late in the first quarter. And this time, he did not resemble the hesitant ball mover. He was "Starbury."
In a nine minute span he attacked the basket like the Marbury of old, making two consecutive running floaters followed by a long range jumper that hit nothing but net and the Boston crowd erupted.
This is the Marbury they was waiting for. As explosive as he was, after nine minutes he did not return. He finished with eight points on four of six shooting to go along with three assists, one rebound, and no turnovers.
"He was terrific," coach Rivers said of Marbury. "It was a tough call for a coach because you wanted to go back with him in the second half. But Rondo got it going and we were playing with such speed that we just stayed with that group."
I am not one to criticize Doc Rivers too often, he is an NBA champion, all-star, coach of the year, but with Ray Allen shooting only 2-12 and finishing with nine points in 40 minutes of a 95-90 loss, I can't help but wonder what would've been the end result had Rivers stuck with the red hot Marbury at the two guard spot?
Game Two is Wednesday in Boston, and with a Celtic team who has played in an exhausting seven game series against the Bulls, and had to push and fight to come from down 28 points against Orlando in Game One, I believe its time to let Marbury get the call and stay on the court longer than nine minutes.
He seems to be playing with more confidence and he's got to credit Rivers for a lot of that. If he contributes the way most know he can, this would be one "Star" that the team who plays outside Disney World will not want to wish upon.