An ESPN.com report that Stephon Marbury prefers to play in Boston has created a bit of a stir this weekend, and a delayed reaction. We've discussed here several times that Marbury's two preferred destinations are Boston and Miami -- partly to stick it to the Knicks, partly because the situations would be oustanding for him.
The problem is that Marbury having a preference about where to sign once the Knicks set him free is only half the equation. It takes two to Starbury, and neither team has expressed anything other than morbid curiosity about Marbury and his impending availability.
The Heat, for one, are slightly over the luxury-tax threshold and are trying to avoid paying tax this season. So if they signed Marbury to the $1.2 million veteran's minium, they'd have to shed a player to satisfy that goal.
As for Boston, president Danny Ainge, of course, has been doing his due diligence on Marbury. Boston's recent stumbles only underscored concern about lack of depth with the departure of James Posey for New Orleans and retirement of P.J. Brown. According to a person familiar with the situation, Ainge feels strongly that Marbury was not at fault for the way his Knicks career has ended. He doesn't blame Marbury for balking at a chance to play after being told he wasn't in the team's plans. But Ainge also has concerns about where Marbury is physically after sitting out the entire regular season and the last two months of 2007-08 following foot surgery.
Ainge confided recently that he doesn't fully understand what transpired between the Knicks and Marbury over the last couple of years; it's been a complicated relationship, with plenty of blame to go around. Basically, Ainge has an open mind about Marbury, with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The facts are these. Ainge would not add Marbury to the locker room unless the following conditions were met: 1) He's healthy and in good enough shape to help the team; 2) The coaches want him; and 3) The players want him.
Although Marbury is in excellent condition, he hasn't played competitive minutes in months. The other two conditions are tossups. Doc Rivers isn't afraid of coaching difficult players, and there is a feeling on the coaching staff that the departure of James Posey has left Boston's bench with a critical flaw -- no dependable sixth man providing instant offense on a nightly basis. Posey's contribution wasn't just on the offensive end, though; he provided defense and intangibles, two things Marbury doesn't offer. Marbury can be a decent on-the-ball defender when he's committed, but the last few years in New York he was an awful help defender.
Anyway, all of this most likely would be a moot point once we get to condition No. 3 -- the players. There have been conflicting reports about whether Garnett would block a Marbury signing. To me, the fact that he hasn't openly endorsed adding a player he was teamed with so famously in Minnesota says everything you need to know.
It's fun to talk about, though. And it was fun to see this photo resurfacing with the ESPN followup item. Yes, that is yours truly locked in an uncomfortable embrace with Marbury at Knicks media day before the season. It's a long story, one that is far from over.