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Monday, January 5, 2009

Celtics seem OK with potential Marbury addition

The Boston Celtics are aware of Stephon Marbury's reputation. They're also aware they may need more depth to win another title.

So if general manager Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers decide the banished New York Knicks guard can help them, the Celtics players sound willing to go along with it.

Even Kevin Garnett, whose promising partnership with Marbury in Minnesota was wrecked when Marbury wanted out, said he'd give the OK if Marbury "was about making this team better."

"I'm not opposed to Steph. I feel like Steph has a lot of basketball in him and his IQ is very, very high," Garnett said Sunday after the Celtics' 100-88 loss to the Knicks.

"He is one of the best point guards I've ever played with. I wouldn't be opposed to that. If Steph came to this team and made it better, I'm all for that."

The Celtics sure look like they could use some help, having lost four of their last six games following a 27-2 start.

"He's been a great talent in this league for a long time," All-Star Ray Allen said before the game. "I don't know the situation that happened with him in New York, but I know he's got a lot of basketball left in him."

It won't be played in New York, though. The Knicks haven't used Marbury this season and have ordered him to stay away while they work toward a buyout. It still hasn't been completed, because Marbury has refused to give up much or any of his nearly $21 million salary in negotiations, and there were no discussions during the holidays.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh and Marbury's representation from the NBA players' association could resume talks next week toward a divorce. If that gets completed, reported last week that the Celtics would be interested in signing him, confident they could deal with any questions about Marbury's character.

"People may think it's a bad idea, but I think that they could help you," point guard Rajon Rondo said of bringing in help. "Anybody that is a great player in this league that could help out -- we are 15 strong but this is a business and that's how it goes. I'm new in this league and I heard a little bit about his reputation, but I'm not going to judge him."

If the Celtics' potential pursuit of a malcontent like Marbury seems confusing, try listening to Rivers talk about it.

"I can't answer the question," he said when first asked about Marbury. "I can, but I'm not. Actually I don't think I can, but if I could, I wouldn't. So I'm just going to leave it alone."

The Celtics added veteran help late last season with the additions of P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, who helped them win their 17th NBA championship. However, they were respected leaders, while Marbury has feuded with coaches and alienated teammates during his five years in New York.

Rivers said he didn't know Marbury, but a few Celtics do. Allen was traded for him on draft night in 1996, instead sending Marbury to the Timberwolves and the partnership with Garnett that he eventually wanted out of.

Rivers said he would discuss bringing in any player with his team. He would likely find support in the locker room.

"Stephon is very talented, definitely," Paul Pierce said. "I've had a chance to see him in face (to face) since I was in the 10th grade or so. It's an unfortunate situation that he's not able to be on the court right now."

Ever a Critic, Barkley Is Lacking in Credibility

Back in the day when Charles Barkley was selected to be a basketball ambassador as a member of the original Dream Team, he introduced himself on the Olympic stage by putting the force of his 250-plus pounds behind an elbow planted in the modest chest of a player for the Angolan national team.

The overmatched Angolan, Herlander Coimbra, had the audacity to contest a Barkley sortie to the rim during an American rout to launch the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

“You hit me, I’ll hit you, even if it doesn’t look like he’s eaten in a while,” Barkley said, oblivious to the fact that his opponent was an economics student from a war-torn third-world nation who said his favorite N.B.A. player happened to be the one, the only and the occasionally ugly Sir Charles.

Given a chance to sleep on that performance, to be a redeem teamer, Barkley said the next day that he was inclined to launch his elbow because he didn’t know if Coimbra “would pull a spear” on him.

Wouldn’t you know it? His audience of reporters had a good laugh. A social critic of slapstick and stereotype got his international baptism. But when did Barkley, an I-man in his own right, become a broadcasting shock ex-jock whose opinions are accepted as serious commentary when he is so lacking in personal credibility?

What makes Barkley — who recently attacked Auburn, his alma mater, for not hiring an African-American football coach — any more of a voice of reason on race than Don Imus?

When was Barkley anointed such an authority on professionalism that his criticism of LeBron James was aired and legitimized as if it had come from the almighty — and not a player whose career greatest hits include spitting on a fan and throwing a bar patron through a plate-glass window?

Earlier this season, Barkley accused James of being “disrespectful to the game and disrespectful to the Cavaliers” by acknowledging in interviews the possibility of a free-agent free-for-all for his services in 2010. Compared with Barkley, James has been an N.B.A. altar boy. He showed up as a teenager with more maturity and accountability than Barkley demonstrates at 45.

“He’s stupid,” James said of Barkley. Harsh, yes, but if the basketball shoe fits ...

We know Barkley is no role model. He told us that himself a long time ago, and he continues to prove it. His arrest early Wednesday morning on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in Scottsdale, Ariz., was behaviorally true to form — a man-child acting impulsively, living dangerously and ducking the consequences by trying to speak comically.

According to a police report obtained by The Arizona Republic, Barkley showed his great respect for the female passenger in his sport utility vehicle by telling an officer he had run a stop sign because he was hurrying “around the corner” to have sex with her. After failing a field sobriety test and having his vehicle impounded, Barkley told another officer that he would “tattoo your name” on his behind if that would make the charge disappear.

As an alternative tattoo, Barkley may want to consider plastering to his bald dome one of his favorite critiques for players in his cross hairs on TNT: knucklehead.

That in itself is no crime, and certainly does not make him a rarity in sports or sports journalism. It is just time for responsible news media outlets to cast Barkley once and for all as a television clown, not as the conscience of basketball or future governor — another good one — of Alabama.

Barkley’s rationalizations of his publicized high-stakes gambling and losses have been rambling and at times ridiculous — what you would expect from a man in need of counseling much more than a microphone. His history and lifestyle should always be a sub-context when he rants about contemporary players — what you would expect if, say, Latrell Sprewell were in his seat.

Contrary to reputed industry bad guys, Barkley never comes off as threatening because he is portly and pouty and pleasant — at least on air, or apparently under arrest (he shook hands with several officers in Scottsdale before being released).

Others with his record of making off-color remarks and less-than-exemplary news would never have been made a studio star, or lasted this long. In a statement Friday, Turner Sports said: “We take these matters very seriously. Obviously there’s a legal process and we have to wait for that to play out so we won’t have any comment at this time.”

Fair enough. If Barkley is found guilty, he will probably be suspended a short time, if only as an attempt to help him grow up. But he won’t be fired, not over this, because there is always a place for a genuinely funny guy to be heard — and not taken seriously, no matter the subject.

Lawyer: Indiana girl earns right to try out for baseball team

A freshman girl would be allowed to try out for the Bloomington South baseball team under an agreement reached after her family filed a federal lawsuit over an Indiana High School Athletic Association rule that could have barred her from the baseball team.

An attorney for the Monroe County Community School Corp. said the agreement allowing the tryout was what school officials and the girl's family always wanted.

Under the agreement, Logan Young would be allowed to try out on March 23, the first day of open tryouts for freshman boys, The Herald-Times reported.

"They will agree to allow Logan to try out for the baseball team. If she's successful, she'll be permitted to play," said James Whitlatch, an attorney for the school district.

An IHSAA rule prohibits girls from trying out for baseball if their school has a softball team on the basis that the sports are comparable. But the lawsuit filed Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis argues that baseball and softball aren't really the same sport, so girls should be able to try out for baseball.

The suit seeks to have the IHSAA rule thrown out based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and Title IX, the federal law that mandates equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.

The suit, filed by Young and her parents, Marie-Elisabeth and Russell Young of Bloomington, names the IHSAA and the school district as defendants.

The settlement agreement, which includes no monetary payment, is between the school district and the family and doesn't include the IHSAA, Whitlatch said. He told The Herald-Times he expected the paperwork for the settlement to be filed in federal court within a few days.

The Associated Press left a phone message Saturday seeking comment at the Youngs' home and sent an e-mail seeking comment to the lawyer representing the family. A phone message was left at the home of IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress.

Logan Young has played third base and outfield in coed community baseball leagues since age 5. She also plays volleyball and basketball.

Her family contacted the IHSAA in May to see whether she could participate in baseball during the 2008-09 school year. At the time, Ress said she couldn't because Bloomington South has a softball team, the lawsuit said.

Four days after the lawsuit was filed, Ress sent South a letter saying that a waiver was being granted to allow Logan to try out for baseball, The Herald-Times reported.