Mike D’Antoni to testify at Marbury’s hearing

Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni will miss practice to testify about his interaction with Stephon Marbury earlier this season when the guard allegedly refused to play in a game against the Pistons.

They’ll be back in each others’ faces Tuesday, and the hearing will force coach Mike D’Antoni to miss practice while he testifies before grievance arbitrator Calvin Sharpe, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, to recount exactly what was said on that November day at a suburban Detroit hotel when D’Antoni purportedly told Marbury he wanted him in the lineup that night and was prepared to give him regular playing time going forward.

Marbury has said his response was something along the lines of “I thought y’all were going in a different direction,” and he has maintained that he was careful not to say anything that could be construed as a refusal because that would technically put him in violation — if not breach — of his contract.

Marbury asked for an expedited grievance hearing, and the hearing will convene at 10 a.m. with Marbury, Walsh, D’Antoni and a handful of lawyers in attendance.

“I’ll have to [say] what happened, the way I saw things,” said D’Antoni, who also appeared less than thrilled at the prospect of spending several hours in a law office conference room sitting across the table from the one person who has managed to keep himself a sideshow and a distraction throughout this season.

The Knicks hold all the cards here, and unlike most NBA franchises, they are used to the media circus. I’d say two teams could handle having Marbury sidelined the entire season — the Knicks and the Lakers. With Marbury only offering $1 million in unpaid salary to secure his release, there isn’t much incentive for the Knicks to let him go. The Knicks are just 2 1/2 games out of the 8th spot in the East, and could very well face the Celtics in the first round in the playoffs. They’d gladly pay $1 million so that he can’t come back to bite them in the playoffs.

I don’t understand why Marbury didn’t take the Knicks $3 million offer. He needs to get his career back on track and he’s not going to be able to do that as long as he’s with the Knicks.

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Did the Celtics agree to sign Marbury?

Stephon Marbury and the New York Post say “yes,” but a Boston Herald source says “no.”

According to sources, the Celtics have had talks with Marbury (the Knicks gave him permission to speak with other teams in hope that it would hasten his desire for a buyout), but one source close to the situation said yesterday the club has made no firm commitment to him on a deal.

For his part, Marbury doesn’t understand the Knicks unwillingness to reach a buyout agreement.

“The question to be asked to the Knicks is: Are they fearful for me playing for another Eastern Conference team? My thing is, they shouldn’t be fearful,” Marbury was quoted as saying. “They’re trying to get under the cap for 2010. They shouldn’t be worried about me. You had guys saying I was a distraction, I’m a cancer. If I’m all those things, wouldn’t you want me to go to another team?

“It shouldn’t matter that I go to Boston if you’re the eighth seed and Boston is in the front. It can’t be about money. The Knicks got plenty of it. It’s got to be personal. If it’s personal, then how is business being done there?”

What Marbury is glossing over, however, is that the Knicks did make a buyout offer ($3 million less than his total salary), but it just wasn’t enough money for Marbury.

So, really, who’s being unreasonable?

What’s wrong with the Celtics?

The Christmas Day loss to the Lakers was understandable. And maybe even the next night’s loss to the Warriors was forgivable, since it the second of back-to-back games and Oakland is always a tough place to play. But what about consecutive losses to the Knicks and the Bobcats, each with a day’s rest beforehand? After racing out to the best start in league history, the Celtics are now 2-5 in their last seven, and have lost back-to-back games to teams with a combined record of 26-42. Ouch.

It’s tough to be the defending champs, because every night you’re going to get your opponent’s maximum effort. It’s also important to note that all five of those losses were road games, and it can be tough to win on the road in the NBA, especially when you have a big bull’s eye painted on your back.

A quick look at the Celtics’ season stats reveals a few things:

1. Other than Eddie House, they don’t have a legitimate three-point threat on their bench. This is an area where they miss James Posey (along with what he brought to the table defensively).

2. Glen Davis is shooting 37% from the field, which is absolutely dreadful for a power forward. Despite bigger minutes, his points and rebounds are down. Not good.

3. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are holding up to their end of the deal. Rondo is averaging 11.1 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds a game, and he’s fourth in the league in steals. He is quickly developing into one of the best all-around point guards in the league. Perkins hasn’t made as big of a leap, but he’s a few minutes away from averaging a double-double. Right now he’s at 8.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

Given how important James Posey was to the Celtics’ title run, we knew heading into the season that it was a big risk to let the Hornets sign him away. He brought solid defense and good three-point shooting, which are two things that are lacking on the Boston bench right now. The C’s are toying with the idea of bringing Stephon Marbury in for a trial run (if he ever agrees to a buyout with the Knicks), and he would provide some long-range punch off the bench. I don’t see a lot of other options for the Celtics, considering they don’t have a substantial expiring contract or tradeable players. Garnett and Pierce are untouchable, and the team can’t do without Ray Ray’s outside shooting. Rondo is too good and he would leave a gaping hole at point guard, and the same goes for Perkins in the middle. What are the C’s going to get for House, Tony Allen or Glen Davis? Leon Powe would be good trade bait, but the Celtics need his toughness and rebounding off the bench. Besides, it’s doubtful that Danny Ainge would make any major changes to this group since it got them to the Promised Land last season.

I don’t think this 2-5 stretch is a sign that the Celtics aren’t for real. They are. The NBA season is a grind and they’ll be there at the end. It’s going to be interesting to see how they play at home tonight against a good Houston team and then on Friday at Cleveland.

Thursday (1/8) Update: The Rockets did indeed beat the Celtics in Boston.

Recent losses have Celtics thinking Starbury

ESPN is reporting that the Boston Celtics are interested in making a deal with Stephon Marbury if he can ever come to terms on a buyout with the Knicks.

That still depends largely on Marbury’s ability to negotiate his release from the Knicks after weeks of fruitless and oft-contentious buyout talks, but sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com this week that Boston is Marbury’s preferred destination if he manages to become a free agent and that the Celtics are indeed hopeful of signing him.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a New Year’s Day holiday for the entire league and has generally refused to address the possibility of signing Marbury. Yet it’s believed that the Celtics’ concerns about their depth, after losing James Posey and P.J. Brown from last season’s title team, have swelled noticeably since they followed up the best 29-game start in NBA history at 27-2 by losing three of the next four games on the road.

Boston also knows it would have the option to simply release Marbury without significant salary-cap consequences if he fails to click as a backup or proves unwilling to accept a secondary role.

It appears that the biggest obstacle to such a move is Marbury actually securing a buyout from the Knicks in a timely fashion as opposed to reservations Boston might have about Marbury’s impact on team chemistry.

Although it has been widely assumed that Celtics forward Kevin Garnett would resist a reunion with the controversial point guard — after Marbury broke up their Minnesota partnership following less than three seasons together by forcing a trade to New Jersey — one Celtics source insists that Garnett has voiced no opposition to the idea of signing Marbury for the rest of the season to strengthen Boston’s backcourt depth behind starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.

When asked specifically about the likelihood of Marbury joining the Celtics this season, the source predicted that “it will happen.”

Joining the NBA’s reigning champions would certainly back up Marbury’s recent claim at halftime of a Knicks-Lakers game in Los Angeles that “the team I’m going to go to, a lot of people will be shocked.”

The move to Boston would surely add some drama to the playoff race in the East. It’s always fascinating to see how troubled stars fare in new environments and Marbury’s potential move to Boston would be no different. The Celtics interest in Marbury is a direct reflection on how they feel about Eddie House and Tony Allen coming off their bench. Marbury would definitely take a reserve role if he lands in Boston.

The problem here seems to be with Marbury’s inability to negotiate a buyout with the Knicks. This is pure speculation, but he has stated that he wants his full salary for this season. This is shortsighted as his value this summer (as a free agent) depends heavily on how the rest of the year plays out. If he stays in New York and doesn’t play, what’s the best offer he’s going to get this summer? At that point he’d be a troublesome 32 year-old, shoot-first point guard.

However, if he agrees to a buyout, lands in Boston and shows he can play well with others, he stands to benefit next summer in the form of a bigger (and potentially longer) contract. The downside for the Celtics is low because if he brings the headache to Beantown, they can cut him without much damage to their salary cap.

Now that the holidays are over, I’d expect the Knicks and Marbury to move on a buyout. It’ll be interesting to watch this story develop over the next few weeks.

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