They don't hand out awards in the NBA for 13th man of the year. You don't make many headlines for sitting on the sidelines, inactive, while your teammates go out there and win basketball games. It's not a skill that garners a lot of attention.
But in his role as warmer of the bench and provider of moral support, Brian Scalabrine has truly shined.
It wasn't always this way.
Earlier this season, when injuries took their toll on the Celtics and there were more openings on the depth chart, Scal saw some minutes coming off Doc Rivers' bench. But as the season went on and the team got healthier, he started seeing less and less time; now, with Michael Finley on the roster and only 12 roster spots available for 13 players, Scal's gone from little time to no time. He's working out with the team day in and day out, but he's off the active roster, ineligible to take the floor.
"On a good championship team, I'm just happy to be here," he said. "I've just got to continue to work to get better."
Rivers has always praised Scal for being a team player, one willing to take on whatever role he's assigned. When he was a part of the rotation, he would work with the team every day, working on sets and running plays. Now he's taken to working on himself, honing his game. Down the road, it might pay off.
"Now I'm preparing to get better, working on my skills," Scalabrine said. "Run, do extra conditioning. … I'm back here working out all day, or working out hard in the morning. You make those adjustments based on whether you're suiting up or not."
At the moment, there's no plan for him to suit up. And Scal isn't forcing the issue, either — he's just working hard and hoping his number's called whenever it's called. He's not asking for playing time. In fact, he's not even broaching the subject.
"I don't do that kind of stuff," Scalabrine said. "Me and Doc have a relationship where if he knows he's thinking about activating me, he'll tell me a day in advance, or that morning during shootaround, so I have a different preparation for the game."
Scal last played for the Celtics against the Wizards on March 7 — not coincidentally, the same night that Finley showed up in Boston and began working with the team.
Finley has seen steady minutes in Boston through six games. And as long as that keeps up, the Celtics faithful won't be seeing much Scal.
"I'm going to activate him eventually," Rivers said. "I think we've got to get him some minutes, too. We obviously haven't made a decision on who we're going to have in uniform every night yet. I can tell you that. You know, it's tough right now. I've got to make sure Michael's right before we do anything with anyone else."
Doc's in a difficult position. Scal's been a part of this team for nearly five years now, and it's hard to cut him out completely.
The fans in Boston clearly want him back on the floor. At the end of a blowout win, you can still hear them chanting his name, even though he's been MIA for two weeks.
At the moment, Scal's out of luck. But will it keep up? That's a tougher question.
Assuming this team stays healthy, the C's will have to make a final decision eventually. Come playoff time, who takes the floor and who hits the bench? There's no long-term plan yet.
If the fans had their way, they'd see Scal every night. But it's Doc's decision that matters, and that one remains to be seen. Either way, Scal will be a professional and handle whatever comes his way. And whether Doc calls his name or not, the fans always will.
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