But this past Friday, meeting the media with Celtics Coach Doc Rivers just after signing a contract and just before his Boston debut, Marbury gave those who dream of a happy marriage between "Starbury" and the C's absolutely nothing to complain about. Even when he was prodded about his past transgressions, the player's answers were the picture of pithy rationality. ("I'm human, I make mistakes, and I've learned from my mistakes," Marbury said at one point. "You just gotta keep on pushin' on.") Franchise win-wise, the Marbury era is off to a mixed start — as of this writing, the team is one and one since his arrival — but as far as the sporting public knows, Marbury himself has been a model teammate.
Given all this — and after watching Marbury flash his extremely disarming smile to the Celtics fans who gave him a standing O during his Friday-night debut — I recently found myself thinking that perhaps, unlikely as it seems, Marbury has actually gotten his shit together. I recalled a strangely touching moment from Marbury's Italian-vacation blog post: "I played with a six-year-old kid who loved basketball but said nobody would play with him. So I played with him two straight hours." And then — channeling my inner Barbara Walters — I wondered: "What if the Celtics are now playing the role of Marbury — and he's the lonely, hoops-happy six year old?"
And then I snapped out of it. For the Celtics' sake, and Marbury's, I truly hope he succeeds here. But Marbury has said all the right things before: in Minnesota, where he initially likened exec Kevin McHale to a surrogate father; when he was traded to the Nets, bringing him back near Coney Island; after joining Phoenix, when he claimed to be "rejuvenated"; with the Knicks, when he finally joined his real hometown team and got to play in Madison Square Garden.
If that doesn't happen here in Boston — and if the Celtics actually manage to win another championship this year — Rivers, the team, and Marbury himself will all deserve a great deal of credit. But I'd bet against this best-case scenario. New beginnings are Marbury's strong suit. It's what comes next that gives him trouble — and when the trouble starts, it tends to get very strange very quickly. So here's some friendly advice: brace yourself, Boston, for the next installment of the Starbury Show.
Adam Reilly lacks elite athleticism. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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