Kevin Garnett was already down with a hyperextended knee. Rasheed Wallace soon followed with a sore forefoot.
That left Brian Scalabrine, everybody’s favorite towel-waiving backup, to actually get the starting nod.
Normally, that would mean bad news for the Celtics. As most of you probably know, Scal is a slow, chubby, goofy bench-warmer shooting only 35% for the entire season. He doesn’t possess the lateral quickness to be a threat off the dribble and, this year at least, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with his jump shot.
But, as they say, that’s why they play the games. Scal far surpassed all expectations. He should have been destroyed by Josh Smith, but locked him down. He was ice cold from the perimeter heading into the game, but drilled his first three shots. For his height, he’s one of the worst rebounders in the game, but he pulled down five big ones. He was supposed to be unreliable and has been hailed by some as perhaps the worst player in the NBA, but it sure as hell didn’t seem that way.
Just like last season, Scal was available when the Celtics needed him in a pinch, ready to do whatever his team needed from him. (Sadly, though, he wasn’t wearing the 5XL headband.) He crashed the glass, took care of the basketball and, besides locking Smith down, played great position defense.
I’ve written about it before, but Scal has — at once — the best job in the world and the worst. Why the best? Well, uh, he’s making $3 million per year just to be the least talented Celtic. He shows up to work, sits on the bench, and collects his paycheck. You could say he probably works hard off the court but, well, have you seen his body? He looks more like a coach potato than an NBA basketball player, and I assume he doesn’t put too much work into looking like that. (Side note: Did anyone else see Scal’s halftime interview? The man was absolutely gassed. He answered one question with a simple “yes”, another with nothing but a shrug of the shoulders, and panted in exhaustion nearly the entire time. I guess that’s what happens when an oversized Jason Segel gets the halftime interview.)
Even though he’s making more money than I can dream of just to play a game, it must be tough for Scal to sit there night in and night out as his teammates play basketball. Wouldn’t you be upset, knowing your best just isn’t good enough? Knowing that as hard as you worked, as good as you became, it was never enough to regularly crack an NBA rotation? Understanding you are so close to becoming a rotation player, but could never do it? Realizing ever day that you could either get a DNP-CD or a random, injury-related start?
I was a bench-warmer in college and, believe me, I wasn’t happy just to be there. After all the hours I put into the game, all the time I’d spent honing my craft, I wanted more than a seat on the end of the bench with my warmup jersey on. I wanted to participate in the games, to play the sport I love.
And I imagine Scal feels the same way. I imagine he goes home at night and thinks two things:
1) How the hell did a guy like me wind up making $3 million a year playing basketball?, and 2) I wish I was just a little bit better, good enough to earn a spot in the regular rotation.
But, rotation minutes or not, Scal stays ready to play. He’s not the best player in the NBA, or even close, but Brian Scalabrine does some good things on a basketball court and, more than that, he doesn’t do any bad things. He won’t turn the ball over, he won’t be out of position defensively, and he won’t make any head-scratching plays.
I’m not trying to say Scal’s had a good season; any fool can see that he hasn’t. All I’m trying to say is that when the Celtics really need him to play some good minutes, Scal tends to come through.