Erden trade comes back to bite Celtics at center

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Erden trade comes back to bite Celtics at center

By A. SherrodBlakely
CSNNE.com CelticsInsider
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 atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

BOSTON – This continues to be a historic season for Isaiah Thomas as more records fell in Wednesday’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee, and the company he’s keeping becomes even more exclusive. 

Thomas had a game-high 32 points on Wednesday which included five made 3’s on nine attempts. That gave him 223 for the season which is a new franchise single-season record for made 3-pointers. The previous record was 222 set by Antoine Walker during the 2001-2002 season.

And his 32 points scored gives him 2,012 this season. 

Only six players in franchise history (Paul Pierce was the last to do it during the 2005-2006 season) have scored 2,000 or more points in a single season. 

Oh, there’s more. 

With Wednesday being the 66th time this season he has had 20 or more points, Thomas has now tied Pierce (2005-2006) and Larry Bird (1985-1986; 1987-1988) for sixth on the Celtics’ single-season franchise list. 

“I didn’t even know that,” a visibly disappointed Thomas said following Wednesday’s loss. “It doesn’t feel that good right now. But when I look back on it, probably in the offseason, I’ll appreciate it a little more. But I’m just staying in the moment and try and play as best I can to lead this team to as many wins as possible.”

Other season milestones Thomas is in the mix for include the following:

  • The 5-foot-9 guard is one of three players this season to have 50 or more games of 25-plus points, joined by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (57) and Houston’s James Harden (54).
  • Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 50 straight games (Dec. 3 – March 29). That’s also the longest current streak in the NBA. 
  • With 66 games of 20 or more points this season, Thomas is second in the NBA to Westbrook (67).

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

BOSTON – One of the more bizarre plays in Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee came in the second quarter, requiring some explanation from the officials afterwards. 

With 3:55 to play in the second quarter, the officials had originally called a foul on Marcus Smart which he verbally protested that eventually led to him being whistled for a technical foul. 

After the officials reviewed the play, they changed the call to a personal foul against Khris Middleton but no change to the called technical foul against Smart who objected to a call that, upon review, they agreed was the wrong call to make. 

Official Sean Corbin, through pool reporter Ken Powtak of the Associated Press, acknowledged that the original call was a loose ball foul against Smart. 

“The (officiating) crew got together, we met prior to video and we decided that we needed to look at video because both players were on the floor bleeding so we went to the video for a hostile act,” Corbin told Powtak. “In the review we noticed that Khris Middleton initially made contact to Marcus Smart’s face. That’s how the original contact to the play occurred.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, Middleton missed his technical free throw while Smart split a pair of free throws which cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-40.

Still, that’s no consolation for Smart who was whistled for a technical foul on a play that the official acknowledged was the wrong call to make. 

In the fourth quarter, Smart was at the center of yet another controversial call that was also reviewed by the officials. The verdict wasn't nearly as good for Smart who was whistled for a flagrant foul after getting his feet tangled up with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo who was called for a non-shooting foul in the play with 4:46 to play. 

Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws and on the Bucks' ensuing possession, he was called for traveling.

Smart was unavailable to talk after the game in part because the aforementioned incident left an abrasion to his mouth and, because of the technical foul, a little lighter in the wallet as well.