For Stephon Marbury to salvage this season and find success for himself and the Boston Celtics, he has to accept the limited role that he is given with the team. That's not an easy situation for a player of his level. The reason his role will be limited is mainly because Rajon Rondo is having an excellent season -- not a good season, an excellent season. Rondo is the heart of the C's defense. Everyone talks, and rightfully so, about Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins in the frontcourt, but the reason all of this stuff works is because of Rondo at the point. He's fourth in the league in steals (1.95 per game). He creates havoc defensively. He's a great rebounder (5.4 rebounds per game), second only to Jason Kidd (6.2) among point guards. He's playing 30-plus minutes per game so far.
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The battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference took another twist Thursday night, when Cleveland's Ben Wallace suffered a broken right fibula against the Rockets that could force him to miss the rest of the regular season.
His loss compromises the post depth for the Cavaliers, leaving more minutes for Anderson Varejao and rookie J.J. Hickson. While Wallace is not the player he once was, he was still an important rebounder and defender.
Just this past week, we looked at a less severe injury to Kevin Garnett and its impact on the Boston Celtics, and discovered that in such a tight race, even missing one to two weeks could have a significant effect.
With Wallace in the lineup, Cleveland had the inside edge for the No. 1 seed at 42 percent -- projecting to win 20 of their final 25 regular-season games.
Out of 10,000 simulations, the injury costs the Cavaliers just an average of half a win over those final 25 games, but that small number is still important because it means they are no longer the clear favorites to finish with the East's best record.
Boston and Cleveland are now projected to have an equal chance at winning the all-important top seed. Orlando still has an outside chance, but remains a distant third. The Magic are the likely second-round opponent for whichever squad finishes second, creating a large incentive to win as many games as possible.
Insiders can read the rest of AccuScore's analysis here.
Whether this will work depends on a lot of factors -- whether Marbury is willing to take on a subordinate role, whether he's willing to commit at the defensive end for the first time in his career and whether he can avoid alienating his own locker room.
But much of it depends on a question we simply don't know the answer to: How much does this guy have left, anyway?
Marbury hadn't played in more than a year, until his Celtics debut Friday, when he scored eight points in 13 minutes. He missed most of last season with ankle problems, and was Tinsley'd by the Knicks before he ever played a game this season. The only prolonged exposure we've had to him was in the preseason, when, by all accounts, he appeared to be in great shape and played reasonably well.
If that's still true, he can help Boston with his ability to score off the drive and his passable long-range shooting. Even during the past two miserable years in New York, his PER was around the league average, and although outside shooting wasn't his forte as a younger player, he made 35.7 percent, and 37.8 percent on 3-pointers, in the past two seasons.
Marbury doesn't need to be Starbury to help the Celtics considerably. If he just puts up numbers similar to the ones he put up in New York the past two seasons and defends with reasonable effort, he'll be a massive improvement on the Pruitt-Scalabrine combo; it's possible he could be an upgrade on Tony Allen for the playoffs, too.
There's a reason this might actually work, and it's the one difference between this stop and every other place he has been in his career: Marbury needs Boston a lot more than Boston needs Marbury. If Marbury starts wallowing in negativity or playing keep-away from his teammates, the Celtics can just cut him. There are no cap implications, no long-term dollars at stake. Just a short, sweet sayonara.
To read Hollinger's entire analysis of Marbury's move to Boston, click here.
However, it's not as much as they had hoped. At the beginning of the season, teams were projecting a $62 million salary cap in the summer of 2009.
Now, given the economy, league sources suggest that the cap will likely come in below this season's $58.6 million cap number. Sources say the cap should be somewhere between $57 million and $58 million. For the purposes of this projection, we're going with a $58 million cap.
Furthermore, of the teams mentioned, only three -- the Pistons, Grizzlies and Thunder -- are likely to have significant money to make a play for free agents. The other teams would have to waive key free agents to get far enough under the cap.
The Pistons seem to be in the best place to land a big-time free agent. They could be around $18 million under the cap if they let Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace walk. If Kwame Brown decides not to pick up his player option, they would be around $22 million under.• See who else has cap room in 2009-10 • Read more on potential free agents
Stephon Marbury shoots a smile back at the crowd Friday as he is welcomed to Boston with a standing ovation.