Sca-la-bri-ne (Clap, clap, clap)

October 25, 2005

WALTHAM After asking for a pen, Brian Scalabrine carefully wrote out the proper way to chant his name: Sca-la-bri-ne. Then he demonstrated in a sing-song baritone. "Sca-la-bri-ne," he said. "Clap, clap . . . clap, clap clap."

Out of respect for all the New Jersey fans who cheered him for four years and elevated him to local cult status, Scalabrine wanted to make sure the chant was reported accurately. He wouldn't be surprised to hear it tonight when the Celtics play the Nets at Continental Airlines Arena, his first game there since signing with Boston as a free agent this summer. He also wouldn't be surprised to hear boos.

    "Hopefully, the fans will give me a warm welcome," said Scalabrine. "If not, then that's the way it is. [The chant] could happen, but you never know. I would feel respected either way if I got booed or I got cheered."

But just how much opportunity will fans in New Jersey have to cheer or boo Scalabrine?

With very few certainties about the Celtics' rotation, coach Doc Rivers knows exactly what role Scalabrine will play this season. Sort of. The versatile forward will be a "utility man." In other words, Scalabrine can be certain of an uncertain role that will change depending upon matchups, foul trouble, injuries, etc.

The 6-foot-9-inch Scalabrine could see time at small forward, power forward, or even center if the Celtics decide to go with a small lineup.

"He's a guy that'll get minutes on our team, but where and when will be determined probably by the way we want to play that night or the way the game is being determined," said Rivers. "He's an energy guy and you need energy guys on the team. You know when you bring him in what you're going to get from him."

Predictable contributions are a valued commodity on a young, inconsistent team. Unpredictable playing time is a fact of the exhibition season.

Like many of his teammates, Scalabrine has seen his minutes rise and fall at the whim of the coaching staff over the six exhibition games. He has played a high of 20 minutes 16 seconds against Cleveland in the exhibition opener and a low of 6 minutes 21 seconds against Chicago.

Rivers expects that trend to continue throughout the regular season. While many players might struggle with such a role and become disgruntled, Scalabrine has chosen to make the most of it. Even though Rivers mentioned him as a possible starter when training camp started, Scalabrine claims he entered the exhibition season with no set expectations. He considered Boston a fresh start.

"As that type of player, you can look at everything two ways, negative or positive," said Scalabrine. "If Doc sees me as a utility guy, then I have to embrace that role. If one day Doc sees me as the sixth man, then I have to embrace that role as well.

   "You can't be cynical about the roles you get, feeling they don't fit in with you because that will ultimately lead to your failure. I just try to keep a positive mind-set about whatever I have to do. I'm here in Boston now and I've just got to find a way to make it work."

By providing consistent scoring off the bench and making use of his passing skills, Scalabrine should work in the utility role.

With the Nets, the forward proved he could be a productive scorer when given the opportunity. He recorded a career-high 29 points against Golden State last season, as well as personal bests of 11 rebounds against Philadelphia and 5 assists against Toronto.

Depending on how Rivers decides to use Ricky Davis, the Celtics will find Scalabrine's high-energy presence particularly helpful off the bench, especially with a young second unit.

As Scalabrine becomes more familiar with his teammates, his laidback persona and good humor should help the Celtics build chemistry and get through tough times.

"It's kind of weird, but you have to take pride in doing things that don't matter that much," said Scalabrine. "You have to take pride in the score going from 28-28 to 43-35. You say to yourself, 'Hey, I made an 8-point difference,' whether it was me or Paul Pierce who made phenomenal shots.

   "It seems like a lot of times when I've gotten into games, our offense has gotten stagnant. Against [New Jersey Saturday night], we got it going. I look at that. You want to look at what you did to change the basketball game. That's just the way I think. Maybe I think like a coach. I don't know."

Scalabrine will need to think like Rivers to figure out how and when he can contribute this season.

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