By A. SherrodBlakely
Follow@sherrodbcsn Even though his career with the Boston Celtics lasted just 37 games, Celtics Nation won't forget Semih Erden anytime soon.
His departure -- he was traded to Cleveland, along with Luke Harangody, for a future second-round pick on Feb. 24 -- resonates even more so with fans when you consider how depleted the Celtics roster has become since the end of last season.
To the surprise of no one, Shaquille O'Neal announced that he was retiring. A few days later, word came out that Celtics center Nenad Krstic, a free-agent-to-be on July 1, was planning to sign a two-year deal with Russian power CSKA Moskow that would pay him 6 million Euros (approximately 8.7 million US dollars). The C's were hopeful they could re-sign Krstic, but with the uncertainty surrounding the NBA and its yet-to-be-reached Collective Bargaining Agreement with the player's union, Krstic opted for the sure payday.
That leaves Jermaine O'Neal as the team's lone center under contract . . . which brings us back to Erden.
Had the C's not traded him, the urgency to sign another center wouldn't be nearly as great as it is right now.
Despite playing with multiple injuries for the bulk of his time with the C's, Erden showed the kind of toughness that quickly made him a fan favorite. The worst was a left shoulder injury that his agent tells CSNNE.com, was operated on about a month ago.
"He's in Turkey now, rehabilitating it as well as spending some time with his family," said his agent, Justin Zanik.
Even with the injuries, Erden continued to play which ultimately led to him having a bigger role at the start of the season than most would have imagined.
A series of injuries to his teammates led to Erden's first NBA start, against Philadelphia on Dec. 9. He played 18 minutes and scored eight points in Boston's one-point win. He was in the starting lineup 48 hours later against Charlotte. In that game, he played a career-high 41 minutes and finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
While Erden didn't put up huge numbers with the Celtics -- he averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game -- he quickly proved that he was indeed talented enough to play in the NBA.
Having played for the Turkish national team as well as having been in a number of championships in the Turkish Basketball League, Erden, who will be 25 years old next month, was ready for the challenges that came about playing for one of the upper echelon teams in the NBA.
That big-game experience also translated into a kind of confidence that, for a first-year player surrounded by a slew of future Hall of Famers, was unexpectedly high.
"He has a lot of it confidence; he doesn't mind telling you that he does, too," Garnett said earlier this season. "I love that about him."
But Erden was a rookie, and was prone to making the typical rookie mistakes: being out of position defensively, not rotating quickly enough, not being where he was expected to be offensively.
For a team contending for an NBA championship, players with that kind of youth and those kind of flaws, doesn't play.
So when the Celtics decided to trade Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, it made Erden somewhat expendable.
In addition to both O'Neals -- Jermaine and Shaquille -- Boston also played Garnett and Glen Davis at center. When you throw in newly acquired Krstic, that would have significantly diminished Erden's chances of playing.
And while he didn't play much for the Cavs following the trade, a healthy Erden will likely get a chance for minutes next season in Cleveland.
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn