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Blount grabs a jump-start

A return to form after a season on the blink

He's back, OK?

Whatever individual that was masquerading as Mark Blount last season has gone. The guy who played Mark Blount two years ago, the one who showed up this fall for camp and regained his starting job and his reputation, that Mark Blount has reemerged.

And that Mark Blount is tired of talking about the impostor from last season.

''I know what I can do," Blount said matter-of-factly, after scoring 19 points in the Celtics' 114-100 overtime opening win over the error-prone Knicks. (Boy, does Larry Brown have the NBA equivalent of the Big Dig job ahead of him.)

''I know what kind of player I am. It is what it is. I can play."

He did last night. He more than held his own against Eddy Curry, playing five seconds shy of 43 minutes. He also had five rebounds, a pair of blocked shots, and a couple of assists, including one no-looker to Raef LaFrentz that would have coaxed a smile out of Pete Carril.

It was the kind of performance that Blount almost unfailingly delivered two years ago, a performance that earned him his six-year, $38.6 million deal from the Celtics. Last year was, well, last year. When the authorized Blount autobiography is written, 2004-05 will be conveniently excised. Remember, this is a guy who never got off the bench in the final three games of the playoff series against the Pacers.

''I am not here to keep harping about that," Blount said.

If he plays as he did last night, no one else will, either.

Coach Doc Rivers went out of his way to salute Blount and Delonte West for their contributions last night, acknowledging at the same time the 57 points from Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis. Rivers even pointed to a single play late in the fourth quarter, a play that, as it turned out, was pretty much forgotten because the game went into overtime, and Davis personally outscored New York, 9-6.

The play in question came out of a timeout with 64 seconds left. The Celtics led, 91-90, their most recent 2 points coming on Blount free throws after Pierce had boinged a pair. (Blount was 7 for 7 from the line.)

Rivers said he went with his gut during the timeout, calling for an inbounds pass to Blount because he figured Pierce and Davis would be covered and that Curry would be slow in keeping up with Blount.

''That was huge," said Rivers, who added there was not a lot of time left on the shot clock and Blount had to catch and shoot from 18 feet. ''He stepped up and made that shot. I think it was big for him as well."

Said Blount, ''I'm very comfortable with my shot and with my shot selection. I had just knocked down a couple of free throws so Doc called for me to take the shot. I got a good look."

And it hit nothing but net.

There are a lot of signs that Celtics fans are looking for if this team is to match last season's in terms of achievement and victories. The play of West last night pretty much settles whatever argument remains concerning the identity of the starting point guard. The play of Blount does the same thing about the man in the middle.

One game most certainly does not a season make. But the Blount on display last night sure looked, played, and sounded a lot more like the one from 2003-04. Everyone has been saying he's back. Last night, he backed it up.

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