Boston Celtics: Semih Erden
Marquis Daniels: Daniels returned to the Celtics this past season intent on filling the role he was unable to during the 2009-10 campaign, largely due to torn ligaments in his left thumb that resulted in a 28-game absence. The results were much better the second time around, as Daniels, finally healthy for the first three months of the season, filled in behind Paul Pierce exactly the way the Celtics were hoping he'd be able to. Gliding around the court, Daniels was an accomplished scorer at times but also housed the ability to defend, rebound and feed his teammates the ball for quality looks. It was all going well until Feb. 6, when Daniels' collision with Gilbert Arenas left him with a bruised spinal cord, sadly altering his career as well as the Celtics' season. It was one of the scariest and most unfortunate injuries in recent Celtics history, and in a move that showed just how unforgiving the business side of the NBA can be, the Celtics shipped Daniels to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for a conditional 2017 second-round draft pick to clear a roster spot.
Season in a paragraph: For the first 50 games of the 2010-11 season, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed unconditional love for the roster Boston had carried out of training camp. Then Daniels suffered the scary spine injury against the Orlando Magic, leaving the team dangerously thin at the wing position, and, coupled with inconsistent bench play, led to a massive overhaul of the reserve unit. You know the story from there, Perkins and Robinson were shipped to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, and a future first-round pick; Daniels got flipped to Sacramento, while Erden and Harangody went to Cleveland, both of those moves aimed at freeing up roster space that would later be used to ink Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic (see their grades here). Johnson, a D-League center with plenty of upside, got signed to a 10-day deal at the deadline with Boston short on bodies, but couldn't get an extended stay when the team decided to ink Carlos Arroyo for backup point guard depth.
Season highlight: Robinson made 11 starts during the 2010-11 season and averaged 12.8 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.1 rebounds over 33.2 minutes per game. He simply couldn't replicate that production as a reserve... Perkins made a stunning early return from offseason ACL surgery and chipped in 7 points and 6 rebounds over 17:10 in his late January debut against Cleveland. By his sixth game, he was playing nearly 33 minutes, chipping in 13 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to Dallas... So much was made about Daniels' health entering the 2010-11 season, but he appeared in 49 of the first 50 games, missing just one contest due to a family issue. Two days before the freak spine injury, he chipped in 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting over just 13 minutes against Dallas... Rookie Erden logged seven starts and produced a 6-1 record during that span, playing through the pain of shoulder and groin injuries to provide Boston a center presence when its more veteran big men were unable to stay on the floor... Harangody exploded for 17 points and 11 rebounds over 27 minutes in January win over Toronto (he would score just 24 more points in a Boston uniform before being dealt)... Johnson played 17 minutes the same day he was signed by Boston, chipping in 6 points and a rebound in a loss to Denver the night of the trade deadline.
Season lowlight: The lives of all six players ultimately changed during the frightening sequence when Daniels got snagged on the shoulder of Orlando's Gilbert Arenas and collapsed to the Garden floor in early February. Daniels got stretchered off the court and, once his spine condition came to light, it was clear his season was over, forcing Ainge's hand to make the deals that shook up the roster.
Final grade: It's impossible to assign a single letter grade for all six players, but it's fair to say this group contributed far more than those they were replaced by. Erden and Daniels earned a B on our midseason report card (and those marks probably would have stayed the same), while Harangody (C) and Robinson (C-) didn't grade out quite as well (likewise, those seem like fair marks overall). Perkins deserves a strong mark for simply getting himself back on the court so quickly and being an instant contributor.
Teacher's notes: It's unfortunate that we don't have some sort of alternate universe simulator, where we could find out how the Celtics might have fared with their original roster intact. Even if Daniels' injury never occurred, the Celtics were going to have to think about trading Perkins at the deadline because of his looming free-agent status, but it's hard to imagine the Celtics being so eager to pull off a move if it wasn't for the lack of depth at the wing. If Jeff Green pans out the way Boston brass envision, the Erden/Harangody deal might ultimately be the toughest one to swallow given the promise that Erden showed and the way he battled through so many injuries just to keep this team afloat early on (especially after Troy Murphy and Co. gave this team nothing down the stretch).
What's next?: Perkins is locked up long term in Oklahoma City, the Thunder offering the kind of contract that Boston couldn't this offseason. Erden, Harangody, and Robinson each have another year on their deals, while Daniels will be unrestricted free agent if he's able to resume his basketball career. It's hard to imagine anyone beyond Johnson -- a young player the Celtics really, really liked -- breezing back through the Hub any time soon.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on the departed's 2010-11 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
--1. ROOKIES EARN HIGH PRAISE FROM RIVERS--
Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he didn't get to know Luke Harangody and Semih Erden nearly as well as he would have liked. That's a familiar rookie lament in Boston. But unlike many first-year players that spent their time glued to the Celtics' bench, Rivers heaped praise on the duo that logged decent floor time before getting shipped to Cleveland Thursday in exchange for a future second-round draft pick.
"I love Luke because every day he did the same thing: He played hard like a Kamikaze and I was most afraid of him in practice with our guys," joked Rivers. "But I love him, the way he played, and he never complained. He just did his job everyday.
"Semih probably loved me because he couldn’t understand a word I was saying. That was probably a treat for him. But he’s going to be good player. I don’t think people realize how injured Semih was, not only with the groin, but his shoulder. He's probably going to need surgery on both. But he knew we were down and he played. That was pretty cool."
--2. KG: DEPARTED ARE BROTHERS FOR LIFE--
While lamenting the shakeup in team chemistry, Kevin Garnett suggested Boston will find a way to emerge stronger because of this. But he didn't mask the pain in saying goodbye to five players, one third of the full roster.
"We will adjust," said Garnett "I’m just speaking on today, the 24 hours we've had to deal with, it's been very difficult. But we'll continue to push, continue to do the things we do. We’ll get through this.
"For the most part, I just want to wish Perk, Luke, Semih, [Marquis Daniels] and everybody who was here -- those are brothers for life."
Rivers told reporters in Washington that, if the injury were something to be concerned about, he probably would have been told by the team's training staff. The coach said he's "just assuming that it's nothing that bad."
Rivers said he'll find out more when the team resumes practice Monday. The Celtics' next game is home against Cleveland on Tuesday. The Celtics are 8-1 in games that O'Neal has missed this season.
(Materials from the Associated Press were used).
Boston is hoping to get center Jermaine O'Neal back after missing 19 consecutive games, the majority due to lingering left knee soreness that's sidelined him since sitting out the second half of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 8, but O'Neal also sat out Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers due to flu-like symptoms. He practiced Friday and could be back on the floor in a reserve role against Orlando.
Guard Rajon Rondo did not practice Friday and Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters he'll continue to be cautious with his All-Star point guard, maybe extending his absence beyond the normal two-week window established after he sprained his left ankle against the New York Knicks on Dec. 15. That means Rondo is almost certainly out for Saturday's game against the Magic.
Center Kendrick Perkins, rehabbing from offseason ACL surgery, again went through non-contact portions of practice, doing some conditioning and light drills.
Also this morning, Celtics guard Ray Allen spoke with the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier stationed in the North Arabian Sea to wish the 5,000 troops and sailors well this holiday season.
"I grew up in a military family so I know what it’s like to have friends and family deployed,” said Allen. "What you are doing for us helps me do what I do every single day."
Just ask poor Semih Erden.
Erden, the 6-foot-11 rookie center thrust into the starting lineup due to those frontcourt injuries, posted what we affectionately call, "The Mark Blount"* Thursday, failing to haul in a single rebound despite nearly 24 minutes of action as a starter. One reason: Garnett goes up so aggressively for the ball, Erden isn't going to fight him.
"He’s a big rebounder," Erden said while laughing after Thursday's game. Evidently, he didn't catch many of Garnett's games on NBA League Pass last season, when his defensive rebounding rate dipped to a mere 24.8 percent. This year, Garnett is second in the league in total defensive rebounds (behind only Minnesota's Kevin Love).
On Thursday, Garnett hauled in 11 of 26 available defensive rebounds during his time on the floor (a whopping 42.3 percent), while producing nearly half of Boston's total 24 defensive rebounds overall.
"At this point, I’m trying to get every rebound out there," admitted Garnett. "Perk’s out, Shaq’s out, and I’m telling [Paul Pierce to] get out of there. Semih comes in and he’s taking some. It is what it is."
Erden certainly needs work on his positioning and he's only grabbing 14.2 percent of available defensive rebounds. That number might be slightly higher if not for Garnett.
* For his career, the 7-foot Blount produced a whopping 27 games in which he played at least five minutes and did not grab a single rebound, including my favorite 22-minute, 0-point, 0-rebound effort against the Bulls in 2005 in which he started a game that Boston generated 46 total rebounds.
Asked if he was nervous for his first NBA start, Erden rejected the notion like the Spencer Hawes layup he turned away just 15 seconds into the game.
"I don't like nerves," Erden said, eliciting laughter from reporters. He explained that after playing in Europe and for Turkey's national team, nothing should seem too daunting on a basketball court. Erden finished with eight points (hitting both shots he attempted) with three rebounds and a block over 18 minutes in a 102-101 triumph.
Erden is expected to be back in the starting lineup Saturday night when the Celtics visit the Charlotte Bobcats as Shaquille O'Neal is set to rest a sore calf for the second straight game.
"[Erden] was big for us [Thursday]," said Kevin Garnett. "We're going to need him."
The Celtics have needed him all along. Erden has appeared in 19 games, averaging 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per contest. But in a season which Boston has rarely had both of the other bigs it brought in this offseason -- Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal -- Erden's impact on this year's team has been much more than the stats reveal.
What's more, Erden's ability to step into a starting role now allows Boston to keep Glen Davis as the first big off the bench, where he's starred this season, including in Thursday's win in Philadelphia.
So while players and coaches admit that there's room for Erden to grow, he's content with his first career start.
"It's very nice for me," said Erden. "I tried my best, first on defense, then on offense. I helped my team and I'm very happy."
Erden, the NBA equivalent of Mr. Irrelevant as the 60th and final selection in the 2008 NBA Draft (he spent two more years in Turkey before coming stateside this summer), is also playing wit a labrum issue in his left shoulder and, while Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that he'll need surgery at some point, Erden gave a positive report on the shoulder after Thursday's game.
"It's good," said Erden. "I've been working to make everything stronger in my shoulder. It's fine."
Rivers did admit that there was reason for Erden to be concerned during his first start, particularly with the expectations the incumbent starters have for any player that joins them.
"[Erden has] performed well, the concern is that he has struggled defensively at times and our first unit has been unbelievable defensively, so you can see they were concerned by that," said Rivers. "[Before Thursday's game], when we were going over stuff... they were pretty hard on him about defense. You don't come into our group and screw things up."
Even if he did, Erden won't get nervous because of it, which explains why a veteran like Garnett is so impressed by the frontcourt import, who isn't afraid to bark back, language barrier be damned.
"He has confidence and everything," said Garnett. "He has a lot of it, and doesn't mind telling you about it."
Shaquille O'Neal 5; Kevin Garnett 4; Glen Davis 2; Erden 1.
ERDEN'S BIG OPPORTUNITY
That's the advice Shaquille O'Neal suggested he's been imparting on Boston Celtics rookie center Semih Erden lately. No need to break out the Turkish version of your Rosetta Stone software: That means to be an aggressor, which is the one thing O'Neal thinks Boston's fresh-faced import needs to be on the court.
"He's an excellent player, very skilled," O'Neal said. "Sometimes he's too shy. I always have to tell him -- in Turkish -- to just be aggressive, to go out and play hard. He's a great player, a great kid -- one of the greatest players out of his country. I'm glad to get to know him and show him some things."
Unfortunately for Erden, those "elbows-on" lessons typically have come on the practice floor, where he's been forced to guard Shaq for the better part of the past two months. With Jermaine O'Neal sidelined since the early stages of training camp, Erden has served as the second-unit center, meaning he's the one absorbing Shaq's sharp elbows during daily intrasquad scrimmages.
Maybe that's why he's dealt with some minor injuries (hand, shoulder), but after being held off the court (coach's decision) in Boston's first three regular-season games, Erden is expected to see his first NBA action Tuesday night in Detroit if Shaq can't play. Shaq missed his second consecutive practice Monday with a sore right knee.
Click HERE to read the full story.
Some other links to check out:
* Practice notes: JO to start; Shaq likely out: Shaquille O'Neal sat out his second consecutive practice with a sore right knee, but Jermaine O'Neal engaged in near-full participation for the second day in a row with hopes of starting Tuesday's game in Detroit. Also in practice notes: The C's talk about their Halloween tricks and treats.
* C's leapfrogged by Heat in power rankings: Despite an opening-night win over the Miami Thrice, the Celtics slipped back a spot to No. 3 in the latest ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings.
* Red Claws add nine through draft: Boston's D-League affiliate taps Glen Davis' former LSU teammate, Magnum Rolle, with its top pick in this year's draft.
"Semih is questionable; I don't know what he can give us, honestly," said Rivers. "He may play, he may not. His shoulder is going to take some time."
Rivers initially hinted this weekend that Erden had been battling a previously undisclosed shoulder ailment, explaining a bit of his dip in consistency late in the preseason. Erden appeared in all eight preseason games, averaging 5.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists over 21.8 minutes per game. He scored 13 points in his NBA debut against the 76ers on Oct. 6, but never topped seven points the rest of the way.
The injury hasn't prevented Erden from participating in recent practices and he's actually stayed on the court for additional work after most sessions, but Rivers admitted that the shoulder injury requires monitoring by the team.
"I think he hurt it in a game, but it was hurt before he got here and then he just re-injured it," said Rivers. "And playing against [Shaquille O'Neal] every day in practice can't be a lot of fun."
Erden's injury could thin out some of Boston's depth up front on opening night, especially with starting center Kendrick Perkins sidelined into the new calendar year after offseason knee surgery. With Shaquille O'Neal expected to stat opposite Kevin Garnett in the Celtics' frontcourt, Boston would boast Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis, and Luke Harangody as big bodies off the bench.
Jermaine O'Neal (left wrist) got another thumbs up from Rivers Sunday, but Boston's helmsman admitted it was a lighter session and hard to gauge progress. Jermaine O'Neal said Friday he expects to play against the Heat.
"Jermaine is looking better, he had a good practice again [Sunday]," said Rivers. "But we didn't do much today... I think he'll be good and play in the first game."
Rivers hadn't been so optimistic last week, when the injured wrist kept Jermaine O'Neal off the court for a seven-day span. He returned to practice Friday, sporting a brace and revealing he tore cartilage in the wrist while taking a first-quarter charge in an exhibition win in Toronto.
With rookie Avery Bradley still sidelined by ankle soreness, the Celtics could be limited to 11 players Tuesday, with Delonte West set to begin a 10-game suspension to start the regular season.
The Celtics aren't quite sure yet what they have in rookie Semih Erden. The early signs, however, are encouraging, which could make the 7-foot Turkish center the first international player of import on the team in the past 15 years.
A few international players have passed through Boston since Dino Radja nearly averaged a 20-10 season in 1995-96. (We are not counting internationals who played collegiately in the United States, such as Vitaly Potapenko, Ramon Rivas or Jerome Moiso.) There was Zan Tabak for 18 games in 1997-98. There was the immortal Bruno Sundov for 26 games in 2002-03. Czech Republic star Jiri Welsch, of whom big things were expected, played two unremarkable seasons (2003-2005) and was traded.
It seems unthinkable that the Celtics have gone so long without a significant international, especially given that the franchise was at the vanguard of signing such players 20 years ago, when it really was the "Wild, Wild, West" overseas. It is much, much cleaner now (although you'd have a hard time convincing Minnesota GM David Kahn, who has labored, unsuccessfully, to get Ricky Rubio to the Timberwolves.)
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the absence of an S.I. (significant international) has not been for a lack of effort or interest.
"We thoroughly scout the entire world and we've been close to getting guys from overseas in the draft before," Ainge said. "There have been a lot of European players we've been close to getting. We've tried to sign some of them as free agents. It just didn't work out."
Click HERE to read the full story.
Spoke with Semih Erden of the Boston Celtics the other night at the Prudential Center in Newark, where I've been keeping an eye on the Nets and an ear to the maneuverings surrounding Carmelo Anthony -- the subject of today's column, an open letter to 'Melo. Erden told me that each of the players on the Turkish National Team that won the silver medal at last month's World Championship received a bonus of 1 million Turkish Lira (about $700,000) along with a free villa/apartment, courtesy of a wealthy Turkish real estate mogul who wanted to reward them for their success. The members of the gold-medal winning Team USA were paid $25,000 apiece, Andre Iguodala said.
Erden, the NBA equivalent of the NFL's Mr. Irrelevant as the 60th (and final) pick in the 2008 NBA draft, is expected to earn $473,604 during his rookie season this year. So for 10 games with the national squad, he'll earn roughly 167% of his rookie salary (which could involve as many as 100 games between preseason, regular season, and playoffs).
Davis playfully dubbed Erden, "Semih Automatic," singing the nickname as the three players sat huddled at the end of the bench. Robinson tried to demonstrate some American dance moves as Young MC's "Bust a Move" played over the arena's PA system during a timeout.
Erden showcased his own set of moves by registering 13 points in a team-high 23 minutes, 44 seconds of playing time in his pro debut as the Celtics thrashed the Philadelphia 76ers 93-65 in their preseason opener at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
"Oh yeah, he can't really communicate with us yet, but we're teaching him a few things," Davis said with a smile after the game. "He looked good out there."
Erden connected on all three shots he took, but also got to the free-throw line, where he drained seven of eight attempts. He filled up his stat line with five rebounds and a team-best two blocks.
"Semih was terrific," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He played great. That's why I kept him out there. I told you before the game I was [going to play him extended minutes] anyway, but he knows how to play. He's very physical."
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Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he watched every Turkey game on TV, while also dispatching director of player personnel Ryan McDonough overseas to report back on Erden's exploits. The 6-foot-11 rookie center averaged 9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game in nine appearances, while helping the hosts earn silver.
"I really liked what I saw," said Ainge. "I thought Semih played with great energy and confidence."
While Erden wasn't overly dominant on the glass and struggled at the free-throw line, he did show a nice ability to finish around the basket and, maybe most notably, displayed good passing skills when defenses committed double teams.
"Semih's a player," said Ainge. "He plays hard, he plays with energy. He definitely made a handful of nice passes."
Erden gets a brief chance to rest before diving into training camp with the Celtics later this month. Originally listed as No. 50 -- the number he wore at Celtics summer league in Orlando -- Boston's online roster was updated recently to list him as No. 86 -- the same number he held up at his post-draft introduction in 2008.
Erden wouldn't just be the first player in Celtics' history to wear that number, he'd be the first player in the NBA to don those digits. Antoine Walker is the only other Celtics player to wear a shirt in the 80's after his brief stint as Employee No. 88.
Why 86 for Erden? Well, 1986 is his birth year.
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