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 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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