Brian Scalabrine signed a non-guaranteed deal yesterday with the Chicago Bulls. Because the Bulls currently have only 12 guaranteed contracts, Scal is a good bet to make the team.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau (we miss you already, Thibs) has rallied for the Bulls to sign Scal all summer; he still believes Scal can contribute, both on and off the court.
The Bulls will bring nine-year veteran Brian Scalabrine to training camp on a non-guaranteed contract, which only becomes guaranteed if he lands the 13th roster spot, a league source said.
Scalabrine, 32, spent the last five seasons with the Celtics, where new coach Tom Thibodeau served as an associate head coach for the last three seasons. Thibodeau values Scalabrine’s shooting ability in sporadic spot minutes, as well as his locker room professionalism.
As a basketball analyst (can I call myself that?), I realize that losing Scal isn’t a big deal. Of all the names Scal has ever been called, “NBA star” definitely isn’t one of them. But as a fan? I’m going to miss Scal.
Scal was a little like a real-life Rudy. (Wait, Rudy is the real-life Rudy. Oh, whatever.) Scal’s not exactly five foot nothing, a hundred nothing, but his physique was far from ideal and he hardly had a speck of athletic ability. He over-acheived at every level, battling the steep odds facing a fat, goofy redhead from Enumclaw, Washington. I can even see Kendrick Perkins going easy on Scal in practice and Scal responding, “Don’t treat me like your kid brother. I’m playing defensive end for Purdue.”
But calling Scal “Rudy” is a disservice to the man they once called “Skull-a-brine.” At times he was useful, and he never had his “Rudy (slow clap), Rudy (slow clap), Rudy (slow clap)” moment. Instead, in 2008-09 when Kevin Garnett got injured and Mikki Moore proved himself to be one of the least reliable basketball players on the planet, Scal became an important piece to the puzzle.
Suddenly, Scal wasn’t just a towel-waver anymore. He was a respected member of the team, a contributor. And then – just like THAT — Garnett returned the following season and Scal was back stapled to the bench. Not that he cared, mind you. Scal always wanted to do whatever was best for the team, and he never complained. That attitude is why I respect the hell out of Scal, and it’s why the Bulls made a good signing. Even if Scal doesn’t play a single minute in Chicago, he’ll provide leadership on and off the court.
Late last season, Doc Rivers said, “If you’re going to have a guy on your bench, his name should be Brian Scalabrine because he’s phenomenal.” I initially laughed at the though of five Scals coming off the bench, and hearing Scal called “phenomenal.” I had never before considered putting Scal and that word in the same sentence. But in a way, Scal was phenomenal. In an era during which players seemingly become more malcontent with each passing year, Scal was a role model for both teammates and fans. He never acted out, never demanded playing time and never gave less than maximum effort. You can say, “Yeah, but he made $15 million. When you’re overpaid that badly, you should do all those things.”
I would agree with you. But look around the NBA. Players receive unwarranted big contracts and many become lazy. Look at Jerome James. Eddy Curry. When you’re rotting on the bench, even if you’re getting paid more money than an average human could ever fathom, the natural process is to mentally check out. 82 games is an absolute grind and it takes a special type of person, a truly humble and selfless one, to stay ready all season long while never knowing when playing time will come. Yet Scal stayed ready, and kept his spirits high, and was never anything but a perfect teammate, even though he could have stopped caring the day he signed that $15 million contract.
So mock Scal all you want. Discuss how the Celtics won’t miss him one bit. On the court, they probably won’t. But don’t forget: in his own way, Brian Scalabrine was phenomenal. That’s why we cheered for him, that’s why we came to love him, and that’s why he became a cult hero in Boston.
It’s also why we’ll miss him.