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

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."