The Archway Interviews Former Boston Celtics Player And Sports Commentator Brian Scalabrine

Brian Scalabrine speaking at an FnF event

By: Varun Arvind

On October 13, 2018 Brian Scalabrine visited Bryant University to answer some questions from Bryant students and parents. Before that started, however, The Archway was able to catch Brian Scalabrine for an interview. This interview was conducted by writer Varun Arvind and Editor-in-Chief Christopher Groneng. We would like to thank Scal and the rest of his staff for this opportunity.

Varun Arvind: You grew up in California and spent a lot of time playing for the Nets, Bulls, and Celtics, but you seem to come back to Boston a lot. And you are an analyst for CSN. So, what about Boston is attractive to you?

Brian Scalabrine: That’s a good question. Well, first-of-all it is my work. So, this is where I work, and I don’t have the ability to go back in the offseason. They want me to come back if there are trades, free agency, so nowadays with the NBA, it’s a 24/7 thing. But, let’s take it one step further from that. I grew up in California and moved to Seattle when I was 12, but the thing that really separates Boston is their nice ability to work hard, take education seriously [sic]. I have kids, so I definitely want the schools to be a certain level. And then, they also know how to relax and understand that life is long, and you have to make sure that you have great balance. So, when I think about all the places I’ve lived, I coached for the Warriors, I lived in northern California, Seattle, Chicago, New Jersey, here, I think this has the best sense of balance with the focus on education, the working hard from the adults, and the ability to relax and still understand that there is good balance in life. And that’s why I chose here.

Varun Arvind: When did you first hear the name, “The White Mamba,” and have you had any negative experiences with it?

Brian Scalabrine: No, the name, I sort of came up with the invention based off when Kobe came up with the commercial where he jumped over the car, [sic] which he never did. He was like two feet to the side of it, optical illusion, right? He had this shoe, and I always wore his shoe, 1.0s, so his 2.0s came out, I went on and made some on Nike IDs, I was allowed that with my Nike contract [sic]. So, I made the White Mambas 1.0. I walked on the team plane, and Stacey Keane, who was the commentator for the Bulls, I slapped them down on the table and I said, “White Mambas 1.0.” She was like, “You’re the White Mamba?” And I’m like, I’m definitely the White Mamba [sic]. And from there, within a week, there was giant heads of mine running around the arena [sic], the White Mamba t-shirts out in the parking lot, it just like completely blew up. I embraced it – he embraced it. So, you gotta [sic] have, that’s like my job now, I gotta [sic] be the guy that drives home nicknames [sic]. That’s what I do.

Varun Arvind: You were obviously on the 2008 championship team. Does the culture that you saw then remind you of the culture that Brad Stevens has created?

Brian Scalabrine: Very different. Very different. This team [2019 Celtics] is all about their work, they’re all about, give me some time here [sic]. They’re all about their work. They’re all about growing. They’re all about the process. They’re all about doing it the right way, every single day, right [sic]? The other team [2008 Celtics], was just the most competitive group of guys I’ve ever been around. Practice was competitive. Cards on the plan: competitive. Dice games in the locker room: competitive. Who can lift the most weight, money on the line [sic]. Who can swish a free throw, a thousand dollars [sic]. It was a group that was focused on – you can be focused on growth and like I want to get better and you can also be focused like getting better, doing it that way too [sic]. Me and Ray Allen would go up and we would race a mile on the treadmill for a thousand dollars. I mean like it was like that everywhere you went, every time you were around the guys and I think that sort of pushed that team, this relentless pursuit to be the best at whatever you want to be the best at. This team, I think they grow more organically, thinking each person takes it upon themselves. It is a very, very different mindset and I’ve never been a part of a culture like that. I don’t think I ever will be now that I’m retired, and I don’t know whether I’ll see a team like that as well.

Varun Arvind: What do you think about the Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota? It is a crazy situation.

Brian Scalabrine: Sure. So, let’s put it in your perspective, right? Let’s just assume that you’re sitting here, right? You’re the top dog at the newspaper, but Chris is the up-and-comer. What if they give Chris all this money and they gave you, “Hey we’re only going to pay you two years,” verses, “We just gave Chris five years,” [sic]. You know like last year, they could not win without him. So, they need him to win. And I think basketball is about winning, right? So, Glen Taylor, for him to give those guys money and not Jimmy Butler money, I think Jimmy was upset by that. So, if you’re not going to pay me, then trade me [sic]. The only thing I have beef with Jimmy is he hit him [Glen Taylor] in a bad way, right, four days before camp opens up. It’s unfortunate. I think it is partially Jimmy’s fault, partially, mostly, Glen Taylor’s fault. I would pay him five years, I’d give him the full max, right. You can’t do that until next year anyways or I’d just keep my mouth shut. I’d lie to him, “Hey, I’m going to give you five years,” and then I have no intention of doing that, but I’m definitely not telling him I’m not giving you the five years [sic]. So, when you look at all that, and I think players have the right to pick and choose where they want to go, but I do think he should be practicing and playing with his team. He is getting paid. I think 19 Million dollars this year.

Varun Arvind: What is your favorite game that you’ve watched or played in?

Brian Scalabrine: All-time?

Varun Arvind: All-time.

Brian Scalabrine: Game five against Detroit was such a memorable game and the moment and like that way I played during that moment [sic]. But I had a game where I had 29 points, 10 boards, 7 assists against the Warriors. That was the funnest [sic] I’ve ever had playing basketball. It was like a different type of—and that was like a random game in February, right [sic]. But, that game was so intense. Those were both when I was with the Nets. Jason Kidd was like a really close friend of mine. He kind of looked out for me, so it really helped me. For anything at that level, like the margin for being good to not good is like small. So, Jason really helped me with just my confidence of taking me to that level of being a rotational player.

Varun Arvind: What do you think about super teams in the NBA, like the Warriors?

Brian Scalabrine: Yeah, I don’t mind it because it’s all based on salary cap. There is a salary cap in place, right. I think moving forward, you’ll start to see less and less of it. There’s like the super max contract and stuff like that. I’m all for it. I’m all for Anthony Davis leaving New Orleans and coming to Boston and creating another super team. So, until they open up one-year salary slots to a maximum contract where there’s no limit on it, like really if Lebron hit the open market [sic], he could probably make about 70 million dollars and there’s a few guys that can do that, but they limit those guys. By limiting the top players, you’re always going to have the ability to create super teams.

Varun Arvind: Who do you think will win the 2019 NBA championship?

Brian Scalabrine: Oh man, right now, I think it’s the Warriors. I wish I thought it differently, but just by watching the Warriors this year, they have to go really sideways for them not to win. They’re so good.

Varun Arvind: I think the Celtics definitely have the deepest bench of any team in the NBA.

Brian Scalabrine: No question.

Varun Arvind: I think this year, because Lebron is not in the East, they definitely have the best chance of going to The Finals.

Brian Scalabrine: So, it’s interesting right [sic], the best player in the conference, arguably, I think Kevin Durant is the best player in the West [sic], but maybe Anthony Davis is the best player in the West.

Varun Arvind: Besides Lebron.

Brian Scalabrine: I’m saying in the past year. Lebron, the last eight years, who has been the best player in the Eastern Conference, has gone to the NBA finals. Kevin Durant, the only year that he lost, was the one time he had the Warriors on the ropes, and he was the best player in the Western Conference. So, usually the best player in the conference usually ends up making it. This might be a unique situation where the best team will go and if I had to rate, would you say, Giannis, Kawhi, if healthy, Embiid, and Kyrie [sic]. Would you put them in that order, or differently?

Varun Arvind: I would honestly put, I’d have to say Kawhi.

Brian Scalabrine: Kawhi, one?

Varun Arvind: Kawhi one. I’d say Giannis. Then I’d say Kyrie. And Then Embiid.

Brian Scalabrine: Interesting.

Varun Arvind: Just because Embiid, he just isn’t 100%, like people thought he would be out of college.

Brian Scalabrine: Give him some time. This might be the year where he is the best player in the Eastern Conference.

Varun Arvind: But based off of last year, they’re still limiting him to like…

Brian Scalabrine: No back to backs.

Varun Arvind: He’s been playing more, but this year I think he’ll definitely take that step forward.

Brian Scalabrine: If he takes a step forward, he’s gonna [sic] be the third best player in the Eastern Conference. Anyways, we’ll see. Will the best team go? I do believe the Celtics will go. You know, a lot of people are picking the Raptors.

Varun Arvind: That really depends on how—who’s their new coach?

Brian Scalabrine: Nick Nurse.

Varun Arvind: Yeah, it really depends on how he manages to create the bench. The Raptors also had a really deep bench.

Brian Scalabrine: They were awesome last year.

Varun Arvind: Yeah, they were. It really depends on how he makes Kawhi—it depends on Kawhi’s play honestly.

Brian Scalabrine: I do agree. If Kawhi is like what he was two years ago, the Raptors have a good shot. But, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, they might take a bigger step back. You know it’s a long season. We’ll see.

Varun Arvind: In all seriousness, what was your daily lifestyle as a player and what did it take to make it and stay in the NBA?

Brian Scalabrine: Pretty much, from the time I was like 17 years old, I played before that, but pretty much from the time I’m like 17 [sic] all the way until I’m like 30, like every drill, everything I can do to become a better basketball player, I wake up every day thinking, “How am I gonna [sic] be better today?” I don’t take a shot for granted. The seriousness that I had to operate on just to make it, just to like hang on to the NBA, is kind of mind-blowing. And, I was a little delusional in thinking like every day I prepared that today was the day I was gonna [sic] play. Every day. So, I’d like to get my rest and everything like that. Now once the season was over, for sure like you’d go hang out and see friends and whatever. It’s such a level, my margin for error for being bad is so small like out of the league and in the league [sic], right, that I just took every moment as an opportunity to improve. And that’s how it was for a long time, and that’s why when I finally retired, that was hard for me because I could sort of go into broadcasting [sic]. I don’t have to be at my tip-top shape, thinking every single moment is gonna [sic] be it for me, I can kind of wing it, right. So, I lost that edge and that intensity, and I’ll never be able to live life like that again. Now some people would say that’s probably a good thing like living that stress [sic], but we call it living on the mountain top, right. I’m living on the top of Mount Everest and if I like slip and fall, I go all the way down, you know. I’m not living in a valley, which now I kind of a little bit closer to that [sic]. I can get tripped up, and fall and pick myself back up, I’m not gonna [sic] go tumbling down into some ice cave or something like that. So, where I feel like I’m way more at peace with myself right now, but at the time man, imagine every single day, you’re going against guys who are just so much better than you. The type of attention to detail you have to have, I almost felt like I could not mess up a play. I had to know all five positions. I couldn’t mess up an assignment, but it was what I live for, it’s what I wanted to do.

Varun Arvind: I just have one last question, who do you think will be the rookie of the year?

Brian Scalabrine: This year?

Varun Arvind: This year.

Brian Scalabrine: I’m leaning towards Luka Doncic, but one of my favorite guys is, and I actually think he would fit in well with the Celtics, is Wendell Carter.

Varun Arvind: He plays for the Magic?

Brian Scalabrine: No, he went to the Bulls, it was Mo Bamba who went to the Magic.

Varun Arvind: Oh, that’s right.

Brian Scalabrine: But I think Doncic will win. Trae Young looked good, but he’s gonna [sic] get stats. But I think Doncic. If I had to pick one, I’m picking Luka. Varun Arvind: Just because he’s already had experience. Brian Scalabrine: Yeah, he’s been all-pro since he was 16 years old.