Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

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Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- You better believe the Boston Celtics will be in the market for at least one center during the offseason.

They may not have to look too far to find one.

Although it's still early, Nenad Krstic's representatives like what they've seen thus far in this Krstic-Celtics union that may eventually lead to a relationship beyond this season.

Krstic will earn 5.53 million in this, the final year of a three-year, 15.5 million contract he signed in 2008.

A free agent this summer, Krstic has fit in quite well with the Celtics -- better than most would have anticipated.

His agent, Marc Cornstein, likes the way the Celtics have integrated his client into their game plan, but preaches patience in discussing Krstic's long-term plans with the C's.

"He's a great fit for the team," Cornstein told CSNNE.com. "It sounds like the Celtics feel the same way. Let's get through the rest of the year and the playoffs. Hopefully they have a great run and he has a great run with them. We'll take it from there. But it certainly has been as good as we could have hoped for at this point."

When the C's made the trade with Oklahoma City that featured Jeff Green, with Krstic as more of a throw-in, few would have expected the 7-foot Krstic to be such a valuable contributor so quickly.

In nine games (all starts), he has averaged 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 55.3 percent from the field.

His play has helped cushion the blow of not having Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal around, both out with injuries.

The reason for Krstic's strong play is pretty simple.

In Oklahoma City, most of the Thunder offense went through All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Look at the numbers.

While with the Thunder this season, Krstic averaged just 6.5 field-goal attempts per game. With the Celtics, he's up to 8.8 per game.

"Just getting more involved, especially offensively," Krstic said. "I'm touching the ball. In Oklahoma City, I didn't really. Sometimes five or six times I didn't touch the ball. It's not to shoot, just to touch the ball. Here is different. If you play aggressive, you run the floor, get a good duck-in in the paint, you're going to get the ball."

Cornstein acknowledged how the C's Big Four have gone out of their way to embrace Krstic, which has helped make the adjustment smoother.

"They're so comfortable with each other," Cornstein said. "Being the fifth guy in there has been an easier adaptation than if you're getting thrown in with all new players still learning each other. He recognized that this was a new opportunity for him. He relishes the chance to win a title and be a contributing factor in that happening."

And while the plan still remains that Shaquille O'Neal will be the starter when he returns, Krstic has proven himself to be far more valuable than a stop-gap measure or a 'throw-in' player in the trade centered around Perkins and Jeff Green.

"It doesn't matter to me, about starting or coming off the bench," Krstic told CSNNE.com. "I'm learning a lot, because everything is new to me. I'll do whatever the team needs me to do. I just want to win, that's all."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”