Commentary

Scalabrine gets the last laugh

Updated: January 13, 2010, 11:12 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Once upon a time, Brian Scalabrine was the goofy guy at the end of the bench waving a towel, the original human victory cigar, the guy everybody loved because he didn't really take it personally when everyone made fun of him.

When Jason Kidd's son, T.J., was 4 years old and had a locker of his own right next to his dad's, he dressed up as Scalabrine for Halloween. True story.

"I still have a picture of that, red wig and everything. Those were good times around here," Scalabrine reminisced Wednesday night before the Celtics -- with that big, goofy redhead starting for Boston at power forward -- laid a drubbing on the 3-35 New Jersey Nets with a 111-87 victory.

If this indeed was Scalabrine's last game at the place they call The Swamp, he had the last laugh.

It was Scalabrine who set the tone from the start, assisting on Paul Pierce's game-opening 3-pointer, converting a layup, then assisting on a dunk by Pierce. Scalabrine knocked down his second 3-pointer of the evening with 5:52 left in the opening quarter, putting Boston up by 12, and the lead was all the way up to 21 by the time Shelden Williams subbed in for him with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

Scalabrine ended the first half with a line of 11 points, four assists and three rebounds against a Nets team that we'd describe as merely going through the motions -- except for the fact that somewhere, some purveyor of eurhythmy would take offense, especially if that eurhythmic saw the inbounds play from under the visiting basket with 0.9 seconds left in the first half on which Rajon Rondo found a cutting Ray Allen for an uncontested layup on which not a single Net was standing within five feet of him.

That play, coming out of a Boston timeout, actually prompted the Nets' faithful to boo, but this was yet another night at the Meadowlands when fans of the visiting team appeared to outnumber the home team's supporters.

"You know, I went to Southern Cal because we played at the L.A. Sports Arena (widely considered, when the Clippers still played there, the West Coast's dumpy equivalent of the Meadowlands), and then coming to a place like this, it builds character, and I've always had a good relationship with the fans in N.J," Scalabrine said. "As for my best Meadowlands moment, that would have been my second year (2002-03, when the Nets lost in six games to San Antonio in the Finals) -- I thought that was the year we would win it, so I'd remember that team because we were so good."

This night was notable for the 3-35 Nets for only one reason -- it marked the debut of Kris Humphries, whose first sequence as a Net went like this: Received the ball on the left elbow, dribbled once, unleashed a shot that apexed at 9 feet, 9 inches before chipping paint, then went over the back of Glen Davis for a loose ball foul. Recently acquired Shawne Williams also was in the house but was not in uniform for New Jersey, his 14-month exile from the NBA finally having ended when New Jersey acquired him from Dallas earlier this week in the Eduardo Najera trade.

"We'll take a look at him. There's no reason to do anything other than that," interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. "I read that we might cut him. Cut him? Why? I can tell you that he is a young player with talent."

Having severed ties with washout Sean Williams, New Jersey (whose most tenured player is now Josh Boone) is still trying to peddle Keyon Dooling, who sat out with a sore hip, and Trenton Hassell, hoping to bring back a draft pick or two from a playoff team before this summer when the Nets will drop some $22-24 million below the salary cap (The Nets still own their own first-round pick, but their second-rounder -- likely No. 31 overall -- was traded away to Seattle long ago for Mikki Moore, and Charlotte now holds the rights to that pick.) One team source said New Jersey's other veterans on expiring contracts, Jarvis Hayes and Bobby Simmons, have zero trade value at this point.

Further, the organization will remain in ownership limbo for the foreseeable future, with one source predicting it could be until March or April before the NBA Board of Governors votes on the proposed sale of controlling interest in the team from Bruce Ratner to Russian oligarch Mikhael Prokhorov. (An unresolved transfer of a parcel of land at the Atlantic Yards site is currently stalling the deal.)

"Right now they might be a little down, but in this league you can turn around fast with an aggressive owner, and cap room, and a high draft pick, and they can turn this place around like nothing," Scalabrine said.

This place, however, might not be the Nets home next season. A deal to move the team to Newark for the next two seasons while the Nets' new Brooklyn arena is being built was close to being finalized late last year, but the governor's office in New Jersey is on the verge of changing hands, and the outgoing administration of Gov. Jon Corzine will let the new governor decide whether to sign off on the deal (the Nets would have to pay a multi-million dollar penalty if they left the Meadowlands to move to Newark, but that amount had been substantially reduced in the now dormant negotiations.).

So to sum it up, Wednesday was a night when the Nets looked every bit like the mess they are, while Boston had a virtual night off as Rasheed Wallace (day-to-day with a sore foot) and Kevin Garnett (likely out another week with a hyperextended knee) let Scalabrine and Co. handle the not-so-heavy lifting.

Garnett is handling the downtime much better than he did a year ago, according to coach Doc Rivers, who recalled how 10 or 11 months ago he and athletic trainer Eddie Lacerte were battling with Garnett on a daily basis over what was the safest way to proceed with Garnett suffering from bone spurs.

"He's been absolutely great, and you can see now that they're allowing him to work out, you're seeing (Garnett's intensity) creep back up a little more, which is good. You want him to want to play," Rivers said. "I don't think he's been more down in his life than he was sitting on the bench during the playoffs last year, and I think he would do anything to not ever be in that position again."

And as for the overall state of his team, which improved to 27-10 -- only two games off the pace they were on at this point a year ago -- this was Rivers' State of the Celtics' sermon:

"I love our team. I'd love to see 'em. I don't think we've had our team intact one game yet this year, our main nine, eight guys, so I'm looking forward to actually seeing that group, and I think we will eventually," Rivers said. "I'm hoping after the All-Star break we're whole. I like our team as it is now. Obviously if you can improve it, you will.

"But I like our chemistry, I like our mindset, who we are as a group, and when you get that you want to hold onto it."

And if there was one person in the building who could relate to the gravity of that statement, it was Scalabrine. He was in this building for the highest of highs, and he played a part in one of the Nets' new lowest lows.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.