After five years as a member of the Celtics, Brian Scalabrine had a hard time prying himself away.
His negotiations with the Chicago Bulls were ongoing all summer, but finishing the deal wasn't easy.
"We were talking to Chicago the whole time," Scalabrine said Friday before the Bulls took on the Celtics at the TD Garden. "I was talking to [Bulls executive] Gar Forman, and basically the holdup was that I wanted a statue next to Michael Jordan. And he was like, 'I don't know, there's been a lot of great players in Chicago, I don't know if I can guarantee that we'll do that.' So I said I'd hold out until they could promise me that. But at the end of the day I said, 'Fine, you don't have to put the statue up.' So I just signed with them."
When Scalabrine finally landed in Chicago on Sept. 21, signing a one-year contract at the veteran's minimum, it ended a long summer of speculation among Celtics fans, many of whom longed to see the friendly redhead back in Boston for another season. It's a new era in the Hub without Scal's familiar face at the end of the Celtics' bench.
As for Scal himself, moving on from Boston wasn't as depressing.
"My wife is disappointed, but I'm happy," Scalabrine said. "As much as I'd love to be here, I love where I'm at right now. Tom Thibodeau went to bat for me, so I love being in that position."
Thibodeau, an assistant coach under Doc Rivers in Boston for three seasons before moving on to take over the Bulls, arrives in Chicago with two decades of NBA experience. He inherits a wealth of young talent in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng — but Scal is the one guy he knows best, after the years of working together in Boston. Scalabrine values their friendship.
"We all know he loves basketball, but what you don't understand about him is he loves, loves, loves his players," Scalabrine said of Thibodeau. "He goes to bat, he goes to war for his players. He loves Joakim Noah and the energy he brings, he loves Derrick Rose and the ability that he has, he loves Kurt Thomas and everything he brings to the table. That's one thing that you guys won't ever see from him, but people who play for him know — he loves his players."
Somewhat surprisingly, Scalabrine has emerged as a valuable piece of Thibodeau's bench in the opening weeks of this season. He's averaged 11.3 minutes per game for the Bulls so far this season, taking on an increased role with the recent injury to Bulls forward Carlos Boozer.
That means — much to the delight of the TD Garden fans — that Scal will likely see playing time Friday night against his old team. It'll be a weird experience for the 32-year-old veteran, no doubt.
"I'm just hoping I don't pass the ball to [Rajon] Rondo and go set a screen," he joked. "I think it's going to be strange. Hopefully the Boston crowd loves me. But they could hate me. I don't know."