With Shaq likely out Tuesday, Erden set for first NBA action


With Shaq likely out Tuesday, Erden set for first NBA action

By Rich Levine

WALTHAM Shaquille O'Neal missed his second straight practice on Monday afternoon, opting instead to work on his stamina and rehab his injured knee in Health Point's swimming pool.

"I swam, worked out," O'Neal said. "The knee feels better. It's still a little sore. When it gets to the point when I can push off, I'll be ready."

The big man says he still plans to travel with the Celtics to Detroit for Tuesday night's game with the Pistons, but his coach insists that it's very likely that O'Neal will miss his first game on the young season.

"I doubt if he plays tomorrow," Doc Rivers said. "But, we'll see."

Fortunately for the C's, Jermaine O'Neal who missed Friday's game because of a sore knee of his own practiced fully on Monday, running with the first team, and looks poised to fill the starting center spot. But the most interesting consequence of Shaq's injury may be the opportunity it provides rookie Semih Erden.

The 7-foot-1 Turk has yet to see his first NBA action, in large part because Rivers doesn't think he's quite ready, but with Shaq on the mend, Rivers may not have any choice but to roll with the team's new import.

"It depends on what Shaq does, obviously," said Rivers, "but, yeah, there's a good chance Erden plays. He looks OK. He's still got ways to go, but he's trying his best, and that's all you can ask for as a coach."

Doc's biggest Erden concern thus far is that the kid has become, as they say, a jack of all trades and a master of none. He's learning, growing and picking up a lot of different things in first season, but has yet to take any one aspect of the game and run with it.

"You'd almost prefer he picks up a lot of one thing and then you can keep him in that way," Rivers said, "but he's getting bits and pieces of everything we're doing and doesn't have anything he does well. It's just gonna take time. The problem is that we're gonna have to use him in the time when he should be getting better.

"Defensively, he's OK at doing our stuff. Offensively, he's a great picker, a great roller. He needs to learn how to finish better. He's really struggling at the basket. But he'll get that."

It also hasn't helped matters that Erden is battling a string of nagging injuries
He has a bad hand, a bad shoulder and playing against us every day in practice.

But despite the coach's concerns, Erden has the respect and confidence of two of his Hall of Fame teammates, Kevin Garnett and Shaq, who needed very little prodding when it came to dishing out praise for the rookie.

"He plays against Shaq every day so he has no choice but to get better," Garnett said. "Semih's very skillful and has a very high IQ when it comes to basketball; just him learning our plays and our system. We love him here. Even though he's a foreigner, you can't tell. The way he dances and then way he act, he fits right in.

"I think everybody, all the new guys, are starting to get some of the plays in our system down. We go over them every day repetition is repetition. But other than that, Erden can score the ball. He's a presence on the block. He's not afraid. He's not gonna back down from anyone."

"Erden's a great player. He's a great kid," Shaq said. "I'm glad I'm getting to know him; show him some things.

"He gave me a great move in that open scrimmage the other day. A real nice move. A pump fake move. He's young. He's gonna get his shot."

That shot, more than likely, comes Tuesday night in Detroit.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

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.


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."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.


“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.



C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.



Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.