Based on two divergent observations, both a harsh critique and well-warranted praise could be heaped on Semih Erden's performance tonight.
The negative: no rebounds. As in zero, over 24 minutes, for the Celtics' starting center. The positive: a thunderous dunk over Josh Smith in the first quarter and 10 points overall.
Both points are valid, but you also need to ask yourself this: how much did you really expect to get out of Erden as the Celtics' starting center, anyways? And if Erden is starting at center on a championship-level team, shouldn't we cut him a little slack?
"It doesn't matter if I start or come off the bench," Erden said after tonight's game. "It's the same for me."
Erden was nervous to talk to reporters after the game, apologizing a few times for his English. But the Celtics center spoke well and quite frankly played well in a win over the Hawks. The rebounds were lacking (Erden joked that Kevin Garnett stole them all), but Erden wasn't a liability on the floor. His playing time -- particularly his 11 minutes in the third quarter -- helped spell Garnett and Glen Davis.
"I try to help on defense, everything," said Erden. "I do my best. I've learned a lot of things. I've learned rules and moves, and I feel better and more comfortable. That's good for me."
When Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal, and Jermaine O'Neal return from injury, the Celtics likely don't need to rely nearly as much on Erden. But it's nice to know they can.
Doc Rivers liked what he saw from Erden, but he was also realistic.
"Semih was phenomenal tonight for us," said Rivers. "He just did some good things for us. And the fact that we can still keep -- Kevin [Garnett's] minutes are still 31, 32. It’s going to be that regardless, to be honest. [If] whoever’s on the floor is losing the lead for us, Kevin is not going over those minutes. So it’s good right now that we’re getting away -- you want to say getting away with something. To me, that’s what we’re getting away with.”