Over 11 seasons, Brian Scalabrine has made a name for himself not necessarily as a particularly adept forward, but as a fan favorite. Particularly from 2005 to 2010 with the Boston Celtics, Scal cultivated an image as the readheaded everyman who also happened to make millions of dollars per year. He was the fans' representative on the court, no matter if he played zero minutes or 15.
"I'd be discouraged if I just quit," said Scalabrine, who remains without an NBA team after being told by the Bulls he will not be invited to return. "Everyone keeps telling me it's not quitting (taking an already offered TV job). But I want someone to tell me, 'We don't want you.' I've always been a tough cut to make. I want someone to tell me I'm not good enough. I just want to see what happens." [...]
"I don't get discouraged," Scalabrine was saying when I asked him about those fans chanting his name despite such a limited contribution. "I've heard 'I'm not good enough' plenty of times. I really don't care what people say. I don't care if people think I'm not good. It doesn't bother me. Because I think I am a good player. I know the game. And even now if someone says I suck as a broadcaster, I'm not going to be offended.
"The way I look at it is if that's the case (people are mocking me), then—and no disrespect—you'd have to be an idiot," he says, getting just a tiny bit red other than in his hair. "That I won some contest to be in the NBA? Or that I don't have to fight every day? That I'm not the first guy on the floor and the first in the weight room and the last to leave? That I haven't been waking up 5:30 my whole life to train? I'd have to think you'd are an idiot to think I'm a joke. They might, which would be disappointing. Maybe it is that. But I know why I'm here."
Scalabrine has talked about his self-confidence before, and he clearly has a solid base of basketball talent — he was one of the best players in the Pac-10 during his time at USC and is a 39 percent three-point shooter during his NBA career.
The idea that anyone who mocks him is an idiot, though, doesn't quite jibe with the way Scalabrine has conducted himself throughout his career. In Boston and Chicago, Scalabrine has been perfectly willing to play up his role as a fan favorite despite seeing little playing time. Plus, he has never complained about the at least somewhat ironic cheering that welcomes him into every game. It's not as if he has always presented himself as a serious-minded NBA player, no matter his confidence in his own abilities.
That's his prerogative, of course, and it's fairly intelligent given his continued ability to survive in the league. But that method of self-preservation has its drawbacks, and in this case it's turned Scal into something of a joke among many fans. Embracing a role as a goofy fan favorite can keep a guy from being taken seriously, just as appearing on a rival's playoff broadcasts a week after being ousted from the playoffs can seem to have priorities other than sticking with his current employers in free agency. Yet, Scalabrine might be looking for a job as a basketball player and not as a mascot, but if that's his sole goal then his behavior should reflect it.
Again, this is his choice, and it's been a good one for his career on balance — he never would have gotten that Celtics TV job (and presumably a post-retirement offer) without it. But these actions can have negative consequences, too, and for Scalabrine that means some people have trouble taken him seriously. It's a bummer for him, but it wasn't exactly difficult to foresee.