WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics practiced Thursday afternoon at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint:
Big men and their ailments were the theme of the day as rookie Semih Erden's shoulder and Greg Oden's knee were the focus of conversation as the Celtics enjoyed a breezy hourlong session while preparing for Friday night's visit from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Erden endured a monster thwack to the nose from Washington's JaVale McGee while producing a fourth-quarter dunk in Wednesday's win over the Wizards. During a timeout, trainer Ed Lacerte jammed some cotton ball up his nose to plug some bleeding and he spent time after the game in the trainer's room getting examined.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers deemed Erden fine, noting, "He's just not going to have a modeling career." But as Erden also battles what Rivers believes is a labrum issue in his left shoulder, he's earning points in the Boston locker room for his toughness.
"He's taken a beating this year, a typical rookie year," said Rivers. "For a big, it probably hurts more that he has to practice with [Shaquille O'Neal], Kevin [Garnett], and [Glen Davis]. I don't think that makes it any easier for him at all.
"We don’t know if he's embracing it, we just know he’s getting hit. Even if he's not trying to get hit, he’s getting hit anyway in our practices. Overall, he's handling it pretty well. I think the language barrier helps on that, because when he complains to me about it, I don't understand what he’s saying. So that’s good, too. I think he’ a physical player by nature, anyway. The Europeans do have that label [of being soft], but I don’t think Semih goes by that, I think he’s more of an Argentinian -- that whole group of guys are as aggressive as you can get."
Rivers is thrilled with what he's gotten out of Erden.
"He has [exceeded expectations]," said Rivers. "This summer, his back was hurt, so in summer league, if you watched, you didn’t see much. We didn’t really know what we were getting. On film in the [FIBA world championships], he looked good, so that gave us some confidence, like 'Wow, he can play this game.’ But you never know on our level if that’s going to translate. And it has."
The Celtics know Erden is ailing and it's fully acknowledged that his shoulder issue will need surgery eventually, but even if Jermaine O'Neal returns from his sore left knee, the team can't afford to lose Erden for the extent of time it will take to fix and heal, so he might be left to gut out the season (or at least until Perkins returns).
"I think he has a nagging shoulder problem, it'll probably require surgery at end of the season, but he’s sucking it up and playing with it," said O'Neal, who said he's not surprised by how Erden has blossomed early on or his physical nature.
"I speak a language that he understands. He's a young guy, I’ve seen his type, trying to show what he can do. It's a great opportunity for a guy from Turkey to be another great player to come over here and do well in the NBA. The first one was Hedo [Turkoglu], then [Mehmet Okur] in Utah. He has big shoes to fill for Turkey, for all the Turkish people. But we've got a couple great guys in front of him, a couple guys who can teach him. I know one thing: When he goes back to Turkey next year for the Summer Games, he’s going to be different. He’s going to be a machine."
With news of Oden's latest setback, another surgery that will sideline him for the remainder of the 2010-11 season, coupled with Kevin Durant coming to town Friday, Oden was understandably on everyone's mind Thursday.
What's more, considering the Celtics were the odds-on favorite to land that No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, Oden, Durant, and that entire draft class will be forever linked to Boston in a way. But Rivers dispelled any notion that the Green would have drafted Durant.
"Even though everybody changes now, we were all for Oden," said Rivers. "I think 98 percent of the league was, but now I hear it all over -- our staff, everywhere -- 'Oh no, we were Durant guys. I don’t believe that. I think we would have drafted Oden."
As for Oden's latest setback, Rivers felt for him as a player.
"It’s not his fault, he’s injured," said Rivers. "I don’t know if I'm surprised, but more disappointed that it happened to him. It happens... What can you d? If he got injured because he was out of shape, or he got injured because he was not doing the right things, then we'd have problems with it. I look at it as bad luck. The guy got injured, you feel bad for him. The trail Blazers, they still get to play games. This kid can't play, can’t do his craft, and that sucks. That would be awful."
Rivers also thinks the injuries have closed the door on the Durant-Oden comparison. It's not fair to judge now.
"The problem is, if he’d have been healthy, we still don’t know if he would have been better. No one knows that. He may not have. But I guarantee eh wouldn’t have been a scorer [like Durant]. He may have been a dominant defender, rebounder, and shot blocker, and I guarantee a lot of teams will take that, too. The argument to me, it's a closed case now because of injury. You'll never be able to make the comparison."
Shaquille O'Neal, a former No. 1 pick overall (1992, Orlando Magic), related to Oden and the expectations that fall onto that lofty a selection.
"When you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re either this or you’re that," said O'Neal. "I’m sure he wanted to be on the good side... but now, because of the injuries, he’s on the dark side. Hopefully one day he can come back and turn it around after having so many knee surgeries."
Shaq did raise his eyebrows when asked about the reoccurrence of the injury, noting how teammate Joel Przybilla suffered a similar knee injury and wondering if the two were at all related, or just bad luck.
"As a detective, him and Przybilla had the same knee injury, right? So what’s that telling you," said O'Neal. "I don’t want to say nothing, but what’s that telling you? What are the odds? What is the probability of that happening?
"Maybe it’s the drills they’re doing or something. A lot of times when you deal with people, they want to make everyone do the same thing. I actually almost got thrown out of college for not squatting. I had a guy tell me don’t squat, so when I went to LSU, we had a football coach who was our conditioning coach, and he was like: 'Squat,’ and I said, 'No, I can’t squat. I’m not squatting.' ... Him and Przybilla have the same thing. I don’t know what’s going on, but I wish him well and I hope he can come back."