Maybe it's because the Celtics don't put too much of an emphasis on offensive rebounding, preferring to fall back on defense rather than chase putbacks, but as newly acquired center Nenad Krstic hauled in offensive carom after offensive carom Saturday night, coach Doc Rivers turned to top assistant Lawrence Frank and asked if this was normal for him.
"I said, 'Does he do that all the time?' and Lawrence said, 'If he did, I'd still be in New Jersey,'" Rivers relayed with a smile. Frank coached Krstic during his four seasons with the Nets at the start of his NBA career.
"But he does do that. He has length and he has the ability to do that, so it was good to see."
Krstic finished with six rebounds, all of the offensive variety, setting a new single-game high for offensive rebounds by a Celtics this season. Starting in his Boston debut, Krstic added nine points on 3-of-7 shooting over 21 minutes, despite virtually no familiarity with the offensive system.
"I didn’t expect anything; It was nice just to be on the court with these guys and actually play and be involved in offense," said Krstic. "I think I did OK for the first game."
And what about those six offensive rebounds?
"I always try to get offensive rebounds, but maybe I was more aggressive," said Krstic. "When somebody gives you a chance to play, you appreciate that and you play hard."
--CELTICS GET A LOOK AT THE BLAKE SHOW--
Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin lived up the dunk-tastic hype, producing a vicious one-handed alley-oop tomahawk jam that deserved immediate insertion into his seasonlong dunk highlight reel. But, as Rivers noted before Saturday's game, there's more to Griffin's game than the SportsCenter moments reveal, and he proved it against Boston.
Griffin scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists, and a steal over 41:23.
"He's been spectacular," said Rivers. "I think people miss the best part of his game while watching the ESPN dunks. Everybody's missing the great passes. He's already one of the better passing bigs in the league. He does it all the time; He's an extremely unselfish kid. And he's already improved his jump shot, he's starting to make that up to 15 feet. He's just going to keep getting better."
Even still, the moment of the night was Griffin's insane alley-oop jam. With Randy Foye drawing attention while driving on the right side, Griffin streaked down the opposite side of the lane. Foye's oop was actually behind Griffin, but he not only reached back, but delivered a powerful jam that left much of the arena tumbling out of their chairs to a chorus of oohs.
Griffin nearly put Glen Davis on a poster later in the first half, trying to throw down a little-too-far-out, one-handed jam from the baseline.
The one thing the highlights are likely to underplay is the job Kevin Garnett did on Griffin, pushing him away from the basket for much of the night, and also preventing Griffin from getting out ahead on the break (which typically leads to easy dunks in transition). But even the 14-time All-Star was impressed with the rookie.
"Strong, very powerful; Very, very gifted," said Garnett. "Potential; He's going to be a real good player in our league."
Added Celtics captain Paul Pierce: "I already had a chance to see him from Day 1 in the summer. He's exactly what he's [hyped] up to be. Everything that everybody's given him, it's exactly what it is. All-Star game in his first year, he's going to be a great pro."
--DOC LAUGHS OFF SUGGESTION THAT C'S GOT SMALLER--
In trading away Kendrick Perkins, there's a perception that the Celtics negated an advantage they had over much of the Eastern Conference given its big and deep front line.
Rivers scoffed at the notion that's been diminished by the lack of Perkins (and rookie Semih Erden).
"We still have size," said Rivers. "I’m almost laughing with people saying we don’t have size. Last time I checked, we still had Jermaine O’Neal and [Shaquille O'Neal] and Krstic, and they're pretty big. It's almost laughable to me, people keep saying we lost size. I think we may still be the biggest team in the NBA. Obviously, [those players] have to be healthy -- all of them have to be healthy, and we’ll see about that -- but if they’re healthy, we have a lot of size and that will not be an issue."
Rivers said it wasn't just the fact that the East is loaded with quality perimeter players that forced Boston to swap some of its size (Perkins) for versatility and athleticism (Jeff Green). The Celtics needed a wing and they got the best one available at the steep cost of their starting center.
"Marquis [Daniels] went down and it didn't look like he was coming back, so it was clear to us we needed help," said Rivers. "If Paul or Ray [Allen] were in foul trouble, our team was in trouble. To get what we got -- we didn't think we were going to get a Jeff Green, but we did."
--LOOSE BALLS: WING FLAPPING; FREE THROW PARADE--
* The departure of Nate Robinson meant the potential end of a bench tradition spearheaded by the diminutive guard in which, after a Boston 3-pointer, a reserve player delivers 'high-3s' to the rest of the bench (typically with Robinson doing his trademark wing flap beforehand). The tradition didn't end Saturday, however, and, after a first-half 3-pointer by Ray Allen, Delonte West gave a quick flap of his arms and instructed rookie Avery Bradley to dole out the 'high-3's.'
* The Celtics attempted a season-high 41 free throws, including 13 in the third quarter as Boston's starters held a parade to the free throw line thanks to their aggression in attacking the basket. Rivers admitted that's been a weakness of his team this season and hopes its the start of an upward trend, especially after newcomers Green and Krstic combined for 10 free throw attempts on the night.