Chubby, Slow, But Finally Useful: Brian Scalabrine's Player Capsule

Jay KingCorrespondent IMay 23, 2009

BOSTON - JANUARY 14:  Brian Scalabrine #44 of the Boston Celtics dunks the ball in the first half against the New Jersey Nets at TD Banknorth Garden January 14, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

He looks more like a substitute teacher than a professional athlete. He is slow and chubby, but makes $15 million to play basketball. Before this year, Scalabrine earned, oh, about none of that contract.

Scalabrine was more likely to be mock-cheered by the Boston fans than to make a meaningful contribution, more likely to wave a towel all game than to play, and probably even more likely to be on the inactive list than to play in the playoffs.

Scal divided the Celtics fan base in half. Some people loved him because he was easy to poke fun at, and reminded us more of our own lazy, sloppy selves than a professional athlete. Others hated him and resented him for more or less stealing $15 million from our favorite team.

I was one of the guys who hated Scal. I wondered why the hell Danny Ainge paid $15 million dollars for such a stiff, and joked with my friends about how Scalabrine wouldn't be a stud in division three basketball.

During the finals, though, I started to finally appreciate Scal. I loved it when he came out for the second half of Game Six dressed in his warmups, even though he wasn't even on the active roster. He knew there was going to be a celebration, and wanted to be ready to fully enjoy his first championship.

After the game, Scal went to the press conference he wasn't even supposed to speak at and blasted the media for picking the Lakers.

Then, when someone in the media came back at Scal and asked how he felt about not playing in the series, he took it in stride, saying, "it’s not that difficult to do because maybe now you can say I didn’t play a second… but in five years… you guys are gonna forget. In 10 years, I’ll still be a champ. In 20 years, I’ll tell my kids I probably started and in 30 years I’ll probably tell them I got the MVP so… I’m really not too worried about it."

I could tell how happy Scal was just to be apart of a championship team. Even though he hadn't played, he had put his blood, sweat, and tears into the season just like the stars had.

This season, that blood, sweat and tears finally starting paying dividends for Scal individually. For the first time since he came to the Celtics, Scal earned his salary on the court.

He proved to be a very valuable player, especially in the wake of James Posey, somebody who could space the floor and, surprisingly, play versatile defense, with the ability to guard both wing players and big men.

Scal was still slow, still couldn't beat my grandmother in a footrace, but he earned Doc's trust and mine, too. When he went down with his slew of concussions, my first thought was, "Damn, I hope he's alright, that many concussions can have long-term ramifications," and my second was, "F#$%, we're really going to miss Scal."

I don't know if that says more about our lack of depth in the frontcourt or just how much Scal has improved and demonstrated he can help us, but, either way, Scal was a valuable part of this year's team.

In addition to his reliable outside shooting and solid, though not outstanding defense, Scal offered inside toughness for the Celtics. It may seem oxymoronic to call a Jackie Moon look-alike tough, but Scal brought both physical and mental toughness to the C's. Besides Perkins, Scal was our only player who refused to allow layups at the rim.

Scal didn't block as many shots as Perk, but he was always there to give a good, hard foul and make the other team earn their points. You can't underestimate how much that means to a team. When you don't allow open layups, it not only affects that play but later plays.

In the NBA, guys really think twice about going inside when they know they'll get hit hard when they do. That inside toughness was what P.J. Brown brought us last year, and it was what Scal provided for us this year.

Scal has earned his way into the rotation, and I'll admit what I never thought I would; Scal is a vital part of our team. He'll never make the spectacular play, but he does all the solid, little aspects of the game that go overlooked in the box scores.

If you told me last year that Scal was going to miss a couple months of the season, I would have said, "So what?"

Scal proved himself, though, and the Celtics truly missed him. It's a good thing he came back after the concussions too, because, without him, Powe, and KG, the Celtics probably would have gotten beat by the Bulls in the first round.

That's right, I just gave Brian Scalabrine's return from injury credit for our first-round win. It sounds weird to say, but it's probably true.

About the concussion, and I'm going off on a tangent here, you have to give Scal tons of credit for coming back. If he had another concussion, he likely would have had to retire. You can laugh all you want about his goofy headband, but the fact that he had to wear that shows just how worried the training staff was about his injuries.

Scal, though, played as if he had no concerns. He was out there playing his normal game, giving up his body for the sake of the team, drawing charges and diving after loose balls. Thanks, Scal, for so willingly sacrificing maybe the rest of your career to try to help this team advance through the playoffs. You certainly earned your stripes this year.