|Newly signed Celtics 7-footer Semih Erden shoots in front of the Thunder’s Byron Mullens during the second half of a summer league game yesterday. (John Raoux/Associated Press)|
Big doings: Erden signed
Center is coming off Turkish League title
ORLANDO, Fla. — Just three weeks removed from a championship season in Turkey, Semih Erden flew to the States to join the Celtics’ summer camp. Taken by Boston with the last pick in the 2008 draft, Erden played out his contract with Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul. Yesterday, he signed a new one with the Celtics.
With the Celtics looking for length as they sort through Rasheed Wallace’s possible retirement and Kendrick Perkins’s ACL surgery, they added the Turkish 7-footer to the mix for next season. Erden averaged 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 42 games with Fenerbahce this past season.
His translator, Tolga Tugsavul, said Erden hadn’t practiced since the end of the season and would work his way back into condition after the FIBA World Championship in August, which will be in his homeland.
“He came directly here to learn the system, learn the defensive rules about the referees and everything,’’ Tugsavul said. “He’s not ready to play for the summer league but he said, ‘I’ll try my best to try to play some defense to help the team.’ He’s more focused for the world championships. But when it’s the end of the world championships, as soon as possible, he will come here to work with the Celtics.’’
Erden started at center in the Celtics’ 87-82 summer-league-opening loss to the Thunder last night. He scored 2 points and had four rebounds in 22 minutes. He was hampered by back troubles but said they weren’t serious.
“Semih was a little banged up today,’’ said Celtics summer league coach Austin Ainge. “His back was a little sore and he wasn’t moving as well. He’s a legit 7-footer with length and once he learns English a little better and learns what we’re doing a little better I think he’s going to help the Celtics.’’
Erden acknowledged that the tempo of the NBA game was faster than what he was used to, but Celtics president Danny Ainge said the experience he got playing in a high-level international league should be beneficial.
“He’s played some big games in his life,’’ Danny Ainge said. “Internationally for his national team and Fenerbahce. He’s played against good competition, so he brings experience. But that experience is so much different than NBA experience. It’s a different game. The game’s faster, guys are bigger and better over here as opposed to what he’s been playing against. But he’s more advanced than a kid coming out of college.’’
Erden said, “It was a dream for me to come here, but I had to wait two years because of my contract. I’m really happy to come here and to be part of the team.
Austin Ainge had noted in practices how much Harangody’s outside shot had improved over the past two years. Last night, he went 9 for 13 from the floor and knocked down 4 of 6 3-pointers in a 23-point performance.
Oliver Lafayette said that before practicing with him the past three days, he didn’t expect Harangody to shoot as well as he has.
“I didn’t know he was that good of a shooter,’’ Lafayette said. “Coming in, I was like, ‘He’s a good low-post player, nice little mid-range [game].’ He kind of surprised me in practice. I was like, ‘I know I can go to him when I need a bucket.’ ’’
The Celtics blew a 21-point first-half lead, letting a Thunder team with several of their regular-season regulars take control of the pace.
Asked about Doc Rivers’s decision to return as Celtics coach, and the pull of being a part of the team’s tradition, Henderson said he could understand why Rivers stayed. Henderson played for seven teams in his career, but he always is identified with the Celtics.
“You can’t separate yourself,’’ Henderson said. “I’m going to always be known as a Celtic first and foremost.’’