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Celtics Notebook

Krstic becomes center of attention

Perkins deal shows faith O’Neals will be healthy

By Julian Benbow and Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / February 27, 2011

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LOS ANGELES — Trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Nate Robinson for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic was a clear indication the Celtics have full faith in Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal being healthy by the playoffs.

But the timetable for Jermaine’s return from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee is still unclear, and coach Doc Rivers said Shaq wouldn’t play until the team returns to Boston.

In the meantime, Krstic will fill Perkins’s spot in the starting lineup.

“He was obviously a big part of this team,’’ said Krstic, who had 9 points and 6 rebounds in last night’s 99-92 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center. “That’s kind of the NBA, what it is. I don’t want to feel like I’m taking somebody’s spot or anything like that.

“I didn’t ask for a trade. I was happy in Oklahoma City. But I’m more than happy to be here, to be a part of the Boston Celtics, to be part of this team.

“But in another way, I feel a little weird because I don’t want to feel like I’m taking someone’s spot.’’

Krstic, who started all 47 games he played for Oklahoma City, went through a crash course in yesterday’s shootaround, spending extra time working with assistant coach Lawrence Frank, who coached Krstic for four years in New Jersey.

“It’s really fast, but I’m kind of used to it,’’ Krstic said. “I had that situation in Oklahoma City when I joined the team in the middle of the season. I had to pick up stuff really quickly, plays and everything.

“So I’m kind of used to it, but it’s tough. Especially with this team. They’ve been together for a long time and they have their own routine and rhythm and everything.

“So it’s just going to take some time to adjust to the style of play. But they’re good guys, and their first impression is great.’’

Rivers had no concerns about Krstic meshing with the first unit. Krstic’s ability to play along the perimeter will allow the Celtics to spread the floor in ways they weren’t able to with Perkins.

“It’ll be a lot of space,’’ Rivers said. “With Nenad, you can sit him out 15 feet from the bucket and Kevin [Garnett] at the same time. So in theory it should open up the lane for [Rajon] Rondo.’’

Shaquille O’Neal has been working out on his own in Orlando, recovering from an inflamed Achilles’ tendon. Rivers said he talked with O’Neal, and with one game left on this trip, tomorrow against Utah, the team decided to keep him off.

“We just want him to keep working out,’’ Rivers said. “He’s doing great. Just, ‘Stay where you’re at.’ He’ll meet us when we get back to Boston and we’ll go from there. He may try to play when we get back.’’

Until O’Neal returns, Rivers will continue to work Krstic in on the fly.

“We need to get working on it, but, look, the starters are pretty easy,’’ Rivers said. “Whether you have Shaq in or Nenad, really the four other guys know each other so well it’ll be easier for whoever that fifth guy is to get the stuff.’’

They have doubts Count the Lakers among teams in the league baffled by the Celtics’ decision to deal Perkins.

Pau Gasol, who had his battles with Perkins as well as Garnett in the 2008 and 2010 Finals, is curious about what made Boston pull the trigger.

“I’m sure they had their reasons,’’ Gasol said. “They think they’ve gotten better I’m sure, that’s why they’ve done it.

“But it was surprising, because I think especially during the playoffs you need that bigger inside presence that’s going to give you defense and rebounds, those extra possessions. We’ll see how it plays out.’’

Kobe Bryant echoed the sentiment.

“You know how I feel about Perk, how much respect I have for him on the defensive end of the floor and how hard he plays,’’ Bryant said. “It’s going to be interesting.’’

On the fly Rivers arrived midway through the Celtics’ shootaround yesterday morning after flying to Chicago to tend to personal matters involving his mother’s health. “I’m good,’’ Rivers said. “Things are getting better. So that’s good.’’ Rivers spent the two five-hour flights watching film of the Clippers’ matchup against the Thunder, scouting both last night’s opponent and his two new additions.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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