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Point isn't lost on this rookie

Banks knows he must earn the job

"Not playing Marcus Banks more than 10 minutes is unproductive to our vision."-- Danny Ainge
WALTHAM -- On Friday, the day those comments appeared in the Globe, Marcus Banks played 13 minutes in the Celtics' easy victory over Toronto.

In his previous game, the night before Ainge's comments, Banks played just five minutes.

How long will he play this afternoon in Toronto in the much-anticipated rematch with the Raptors? Who knows?

Interim coach John Carroll does not want to be "unproductive" to the vision, but he also has Chucky Atkins aboard now as his starting point guard and floor leader. In terms of point guard skills, Atkins is an upgrade over Mike James and will remain the starter. Banks, the team's No. 1 pick last year and a big part of Ainge's plan, will remain the backup.

Under Jim O'Brien, Banks averaged 16.7 minutes while James started every game. Under Carroll, the rookie rocket from UNLV has averaged 19.9 minutes, including consecutive starts last week (after James was traded and Atkins was unavailable) in which he went 37 minutes at Portland and 39 minutes at Seattle.

But once Atkins arrived and was given the car keys, Banks went back to the pine. He watched Atkins play 43 minutes Wednesday, registering 8 assists with no turnovers in a 2-point home loss to Milwaukee.

If Banks is upset at what has transpired, he's not letting on. Yesterday, after practice, he called Atkins "an inspiration to me" and reminded his questioners, "It's all about being a rookie. My learning comes at practice. I think I learn better at practice.

"I think I'm learning more and more. Chucky is teaching me a lot already. He's been a teacher."

As for playing time, Banks said, "You can't put your head down."

Carroll is sort of caught in a hard place, between the vision and the reality. As much as he understands that Banks needs the playing time, he nonetheless wants to make sure that the rookie earns it.

Banks sees the emergence of Brandon Hunter in the last couple games (as a starter) and knows what people are thinking: Why can't he, too, make such an impact? After all, he's been playing more all season and he was the first-round pick. Hunter was chosen at the end of the second round."It's different for a point guard," Banks said. "You have to think about all five players on the court. That's tough. It'll come in due time." Banks did get a lot of practice time yesterday. Atkins missed practice because of the death of a close cousin in Florida. He left yesterday morning for Orlando but was scheduled to join the team in Toronto last night. . . . reported that Vin Baker has been in Miami meeting with Heat officials for the last two days and that Heat boss Pat Riley likes his chances of signing the big man. Yesterday, Baker's agent, Aaron Goodwin, weighed in with the following: "We are actively moving forward. He's going to be signed as soon as we make a decision [on a team]. I don't expect it to last any later than Tuesday or Wednesday." Apparently, Goodwin is not worried that Baker's signing with another team might affect his grievance against the Celtics, which had been a concern to the union to the point where it was thinking of getting an arbitrator's opinion on the issue. In addition, regardless of what Baker does now, the Celtics feel it has no impact on their move to terminate his contract, because Baker was deemed not fit to play. Goodwin added yesterday that Baker has yet to meet with the Knicks, who reportedly have an interest. said Baker might meet tomorrow with New York officials . . . Kendrick Perkins was activated by the Celtics, bringing their active roster to 12 . . . The Raptors claimed Dion Glover off waivers from Atlanta and expect the ex-Hawk to be in uniform today. To make room for the badly needed guard, the Raptors waived Lonny Baxter.

. . .
Carroll on Paul Pierce's comment that he was upset that the Celtics didn't "discover" Hunter earlier: "What Brandon is doing now, I don't know if he could have done that in December, January, or even February. There were times when he was a lost puppy out there. He's not a lost puppy anymore." . . . NBA commissioner David Stern was not at all pleased to see the referees wear their jerseys inside out Friday night, writing in the referee number (62) of suspended official Michael Henderson. "[Friday night's] display was woefully inconsistent with the professionalism with which NBA officials normally conduct themselves," Stern said in a statement. "There is nothing more to say at this time." The league has indicated it will discipline the officials who made the protests. Henderson was suspended three games for blowing a late call last Wednesday that led, in part, to the Nuggets losing a 1-point game to the Lakers.

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