Semih Erden, the Turkish Magician

The best players will play. That's the way it will always be.
Larry Bird

Semih Erden. That name has been flying around the minds of Beantown fans since the summer of 2008. The name itself was intriguing and yet it looked as if it would be another phenomenal anecdote for the archives of the franchise. I personally thought it would match well among Darren Morningstar and Ben Pepper. Luckily that will not be the case.

Erden was the last player to hear his name during the draft. I imagine people were already leaving, the bottles of wine served and the cameras already filled with photos from the first and second round picks. He was chosen days after the Celtics had won the first title since '86, the year he was born. Not a coincidence that he chose that number to be worn on his future NBA jersey. I am not a big fan of numbers over the #55 limit, but I thought back at the time that he wouldn't get to really have a chance to wear that jersey on the court. Erden had a contract in Turkey and his numbers were not impressive. I never thought I would see Semih in the Boston area anymore.

Let's see, everything was against the Turkish center to become someone in the NBA. European background, lack of shocking numbers as a bench player, tall but raw...Semih hardly even had a big name in the European basketball. He was getting closer to be the second coming of Albert Miralles in my mind. I watched a couple of games last year and I thought Danny hadn't really watched him play before, otherwise he wouldn't have selected him in the draft. Then again, it was only pick #60 in a draft in which he had already missed with #30.

It turned out that Mr Ainge knew what he was doing. After missing with JR Giddens, Marcus Banks and Gerald Green, he really had a touch for second round players: Leon Powe, Ryan Gomes, Bill Walker and now Semih Erden. He signed for the minimum after playing the World Championship finals last summer. Frankly, I thought he wouldn't make it past Training Camp either. It is so good to be wrong sometimes.

Semih 's CV was empty for the NBA fans until he played his first game in Detroit against the Pistons. Games in Europe are not stat oriented. Assists are measured differently, players play less minutes and more importantly: what matters is the team, not the individual stats. If you are a fan of European domestic leagues you will know what I'm talking about. More than often, American players who come here to make a name for a later return to the NBA notice that the only way to stick around here is to make others better. Selfish ball hogs jump from one team to another losing themselves in the process.

Erden soon discovered that he has many obstacles on his way. Being a Celtic gets you a spotlight but also a target on your back. Referees will be punishing you even when you just breathe. Being a rookie doesn't help in that sense either. Practice against the biggest and more dominant center in the history of the game will grant you some bruises and surely some shoulder injuries too.

But in the end, good players just play, as Larry Legend once said. The last pick of the 2008 draft is currently in the rotation, playing a solid role for the Boston Celtics, getting the respect of Kevin Garnett (proving Noah is just a moron) and Doc Rivers, who we all know is reluctant to give minutes to rookies. More importantly he has gained the respect from fans. Because we know that the kid can play. He has the skills, the height and the attitude. He blends in well with the environment here and he is learning to be a solid center in the NBA.

And maybe some day...who knows? Maybe the Turkish Magician has more surprises ready for us. In the end, what matters is that Semih has demolished all the barriers between his dream and his reality, gaining respect among players and fans.

Semih Erden is already much more than a name. He is a solid member of the 2011 NBA champions, the Boston Celtics