Playing Time has been Alien

I want to play one more year, but if I don't, I know for a fact I'll have an assistant coaching job next year. In five years, I should be a head coach in this league. It's something I want to do, that I have passion for, something that I know if I get the opportunity, I'll make the best of it.

--Sam Cassell

Last July, I predicted that Sam Cassell would return to the Boston Celtics as a player-coach. Not the Bill Russell-Dave Cowens kind of player-coach, where one minute you are playing, and the next minute you are calling a time out, walking over to the bench, changing hats, and diagramming plays for your teammates.

Instead, I forecast that the Celtics would sign Cassell to a coaching contract, and then if they needed him to play because of injuries to Rondo, House, or Pruitt, they'd sign him to a 10-day player's contract. This plan had the benefit of not wasting a roster space on a fourth-string point-guard, while giving everyone else ahead of him a chance to play.

It didn't work out quite that way, as Sam actually occupies a place on the 15-man roster. But he definitely is doing more coaching than playing, because he certainly isn't playing at all. I'm sure this makes sense financially, as Cassell is paid the Vet's minimum, and the NBA picks up part of that salary.

Cassell's acceptance of this role is really something that deserves our praise. He acts as an insurance policy. Everyone knows he can still play (though not always the way we might expect). So his subordination of his ego provides his teammates with an everyday example of what Ubuntu means on a basketball court.

On a personal level, having watched him and Garnett play together in 2004 and come up short, I still get a kick out of seeing them together in a more successful setting.

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