By A. Sherrod Blakely
WASHINGTON Boston Celtics center Semih Erden, who has been hampered by a sore groin injury, has returned to Turkey to be with his mother who is ill.
Justin Zanik, an agent for ASM Sports which represents Erden, told CSNNE.com on Monday night that the 7-foot rookie plans to rejoin the team prior to the C's playing at Golden State on Feb. 22.
"He is in Turkey now, and we are monitoring the situation," Zanik wrote in an email to CSNNE.com. "If all goes well, Semih will rejoin the team over All-Star weekend."
Erden has been among the biggest surprises for the Celtics this season.
Because of an unexpected rash of injuries at the center position, the Celtics have been forced to play him more than anyone anticipated.
"I feel very comfortable," Erden told CSNNE.com earlier this season. "It's nice for me, to play some my first year. That's a big chance, so I want to use it."
To his credit, Erden has risen to the challenge when called upon.
In 36 games this season, the 24-year-old has averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. He has also started seven games, averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Maybe more significant than his numbers, has been the respect he has garnered from a team loaded with Hall of Fame players such as Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal who have gone out of their way at times to praise Erden for his play.
"I speak a language that he understands," O'Neal said. "He's a young guy. I've seen his tape. I was a fan of his; I saw what he can do. It's just a great opportunity for a guy from Turkey to be another great Turkish player, come over here and do well in the NBA."
And as well as Erden has played at times this season, O'Neal is among those convinced he'll be even better with experience.
"I know one thing," O'Neal said. "When he goes back to Turkey next year for the summer games, he's going to be deadly. He's going to be a machine."