- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

Stephon Marbury is the cartoon character who is said to embody all that is wrong with the NBA.

Not that there really is all that much wrong with the NBA, save for the occasional Rasheed Wallace flare-up and Kwame Brown.

You could say Marbury is an egomaniac, except that would not be fair to most egomaniacs.

Marbury always has been an overzealous evaluator of himself, once declaring that he was the best point guard in the NBA, forgetting that Jason Kidd was just across the Hudson River from Madison Square Garden.

Marbury tests the NBA’s belief in redemption and players learning from their mistakes. He has done it the wrong way all his career and been rewarded with fat contracts and the benefit of a zillion doubts. He never has won a thing, not one playoff series in 12 springs, and he has sulked his way out of four NBA venues.

There is no reason to believe it will turn out any differently once he agrees to terms with the Celtics, the storied franchise with 17 championship banners and a team-first history that connects Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Larry Bird and Kevin Garnett.

Marbury is the antithesis of self-sacrifice, the anti-team player who favors bad shots, eerie interviews and delusions galore. He even has a tattoo on the left side of his head, perhaps in a subliminal effort to channel Mike Tyson.

Marbury could not even tame his inner diva in pursuit of the gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004. That dysfunctional team, like all of Marbury’s dysfunctional teams, underachieved and struck a divisive chord.

The Celtics think Marbury is the last piece in securing an 18th banner this June, as P.J. Brown turned out to be last season. Yet Brown was everything Marbury is not: defensive-minded, grounded and content with setting a pick or grabbing a loose ball.

Marbury is not content unless he is burning 20 seconds off the 24-second shot clock while dribbling the basketball in place.

Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers are betting that the locker-room leadership of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will enlighten Marbury and that his quest to land a new contract next season will submerge his need to be “Starbury.”

If Marbury washes out with the Celtics, it is doubtful a 32-year-old point guard with a history of attitude problems will elicit much interest in the free agent market.

The free agency carrot is more persuasive than Garnett’s leadership; their previous pairing went nowhere in Minnesota. Marbury suffered from a severe case of Garnett envy and embraced a ticket out of Minneapolis.

It did not go any better for him in New Jersey, Phoenix and lately with the Knicks, who were paying him a fortune not to play out of fear he possibly would infect David Lee.

Marbury has not appeared in an NBA game in 13 months, a considerable period of inactivity that could limit his capacity to contribute on a meaningful level in Boston. And it is not known whether he will take well to a backup role and overcome his cell-phone addiction.

Marbury has been known to whip out his cell phone while sitting on the bench or being interviewed with the camera rolling. He is tone deaf to the charge that he is out to lunch.

The Celtics see a player whose 3-point shooting has improved in recent seasons and who can beat traps and fullcourt pressure with his ballhandling. That is his principal utility. It is an open question whether he will take to the Celtics’ defensive emphasis. Defense is something Marbury always has left to others.

If Marbury is the missing postseason piece, you are obligated to take the Celtics’ word on it.

His playoff experience amounts to a grand total of 18 games.

The Celtics needed 26 games to win the NBA championship last season.

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