9.13.2014

Mr. Marcus is a Tad Unpredictable

12/10/04

PORTLAND, Ore. - The NBA education of Marcus Banks continues to be an unpredictable process. While the second-year point guard says all the right things about learning the game, being patient, and earning the trust of his teammates, his words often translate inconsistently into action. Unquestionably gifted athletically, it remains to be seen whether Banks has the physical and mental abilities to succeed as a professional.

"I've been happy and unhappy with [his performances]," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Marcus is up and down, but he's gotten much better. The thing with Marcus is look at him last year to this year. He's made some huge improvements. Now, we're trying to get those improvements to be more consistent. And for him to be just more of a consistent player.

"It's going to take time and repetition and positive reinforcement more than negative reinforcement, and doing it over and over again right. He'll do it right twice, then once wrong. So, that's what it is. But I look at him this summer and I look at him now and there's a world of difference. So, he has made some progress, but he has a long way to go. He should have a long way to go."

Clearly, coaching Banks can be both trying and rewarding. Against Golden State, Rivers wanted to instruct Banks before a particular possession midway through the game. Banks held up his right hand like a police officer stopping traffic. The hand signal angered Rivers, prompting him to sternly shout, "You come over here." A cowed Banks quickly ran over to the sideline.

"Marcus just always does this [puts up his hand like a stop signal] because he doesn't want to hear anything," said Rivers.

According to both sides, it was a minor incident. But it's no secret it can be tough to get through to Banks. He has been more receptive to constructive criticism this season, particularly from former point guard Rivers and veteran point guard Gary Payton. The more Banks plays, the more the 23-year-old recognizes he needs to learn. And with Delonte West likely missing at least six more weeks with a fractured right hand, Banks will continue to receive more playing time than he might have expected when the season started.

"My main objective is just to get better every day," said Banks. "I just want to work. That's probably all I can say. It's just an opportunity to get better. In due time, it's all going to fall into place. The main thing is winning games and jelling with the team and going out there playing as solid as I can."

Unless Banks shows that he can make significant contributions, he may be enjoying his last significant window of opportunity with the Celtics. West quickly earned the backup spot one game after returning from a broken right thumb. There's no reason to think West won't be back in the same role shortly after he returns from his latest injury.

"The main thing he wants me to do is make my teammates better when I'm out there on the court," said Banks. "You see what you can and can't do when you get out there on the court. The NBA game is sometimes quick and there's other times when you've got to slow it down. But the main thing is getting the best shot on offense you can possibly get and make sure you're out there running your team."

Entering last night's game against the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden, Banks was averaging 4.5 points and 1.5 assists in 13.4 minutes per game. He posted a season-high 20 points against Orlando Nov. 29, in perhaps the best game of his career. It was not the points that made the performance stand out, but rather his productive pacing of play. Rivers and Payton would still like to see more assists from Banks, who tied a season high with four assists against Toronto Dec. 3.

"He's playing at a better speed for us," said Rivers. "He's not out of control and he's not walking the ball. He usually goes one or the other. Full speed or slow. Now, he's changing gear, playing the game at different speeds, which allows him to get to where he wants on the floor. Where I want him to improve is doing that same thing and not only getting himself something, but getting his teammates something. I'd love to see a game where Marcus dominates the game without taking a shot. That would be phenomenal."

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