THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

After whirlwind, Krstic settling in quite nicely

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / March 3, 2011

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What with all the weeping and wailing hereabouts over the departure of Kendrick Perkins, somewhat lost in the vale of tears was the fact that in addition to Jeff Green, the Celtics actually did get a center in return.

Perkins he ain’t, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is some value in having a 7-footer to whom you can throw the basketball with the reasonable expectation he might actually put it in the basket.

Nenad Krstic didn’t do anything gaudy or flashy last night. He played a little over 21 minutes in the 115-103 dispatch of the Phoenix Suns. He just did what he does, and when it was over he had a quietly efficient 13 points. He grabbed three of his four rebounds in the opening minutes as the Celtics opened up a lead, and he only turned it over once. I’m gonna think Doc Rivers will take that effort many times over.

The 27-year-old Serb is still a bit bedazzled by the events of the past few days.

He wasn’t having the greatest year of his life in Oklahoma City. More and more the Thunder had become the “Kevin [Durant] & Russell [Westbrook] Show.’’ If Green, the team’s No. 3 scorer, was deemed expendable, where was that going to leave Krstic, who was down to about 7 points per game and was no longer in favor? But no one said anything, so he fully expected to wake up last Friday as a member of the Thunder.

“I didn’t expect anything to happen,’’ he said. “I spoke to my agent and he said, ‘Nothing’s happening.’ I found out from my agent about a half-hour before the trading deadline. He said, ‘You’re going to be very happy.’ When I sat down to think about it, I’m really happy to be playing for the best team in the Eastern Conference.’’

Here is what Krstic knows after playing three games with his new mates: “These guys are so unselfish. I am still adjusting to their style. I have gotten so many easy looks already. It’s great, you couldn’t ask for better teammates.’’

“Both Krstic and Green have already commented on the passing,’’ confirmed Doc Rivers. “When you’re open here, you get the ball.’’

Krstic understands the game well enough to know he’s going to get the ball from his point guard. That’s Basketball 101, although when the point guard in question is Rajon Rondo, a teammate needs to pay even more attention than he normally does. In fact, last night the two leading practitioners of the art of driving in-and-out, in-and-out, and perhaps even back in again were on display. Steve Nash has been doing it for 15 seasons and Rondo for just five, but the similarity is obvious. Just because he is going away from you doesn’t mean he doesn’t know where you are and that he doesn’t expect you to catch the ball, from whatever angle he chooses to deliver the rock.

Krstic won’t have any trouble getting used to that. “I played with Jason Kidd for four years,’’ he pointed out. But there’s another teammate who plays in a manner the big guy may never have seen before. And now we are talking about something that makes the Celtics the Celtics.

The seminal moment came in the third quarter at a juncture (64-44) when the Celtics were picking and choosing their offense. Krstic was posting up on the left box. Standing 10 or 12 feet to his angled right was Mr. Kevin Garnett. Ah, let the fun begin.

Garnett passed the ball to Krstic, who certainly could have manufactured a shot. But no, he decided an inside-out jumper for the sizzling (12 for 14) Garnett would be in order, so he passed it back out. Garnett then did something we might not have seen around here since No. 33 was feeding No. 32 many years ago in what we fondly refer to as the pre-dancing-girls era. He threw it back inside. Yup, he re-posted the ball. This time, Krstic said, well, OK, if you insist, and put a spiffy up-and-under move on Robin Lopez for a nice 2 points.

“Right away on the bench we said, ‘Whoa!’ ’’ Rivers said. “Haven’t seen that in a while.’’

“I was really surprised to get it back,’’ Krstic acknowledged. “I was saying, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot,’ but he passed it back to me again.’’

Who knew Krstic could execute such a shot? He does come properly advertised as a classic European Big who is completely at home firing away from 18 feet. It’s certainly nice to know he actually has a post-up move or two. What a bonus.

Fans must get it in their heads that the Celtics have simply made a decision to go about their business in a different way than they have the last three years. They appreciated what Perkins did, but they did win a lot of games without him this season, and they have never been about individual defense. They see Krstic as being a much better offensive fit for the team in general, and Rondo in particular. And he sees how much fun basketball can be when you play with certain people.

“The passing,’’ Krstic said. “It’s contagious.’’

Nenad Krstic is now a Boston Celtic. People could even learn to like him.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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