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Center of attention

Posted by David Sabino  December 16, 2013 03:56 PM

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Buried behind Dwight Howard on Kevin McHale's bench in Houston, Omer Asik of Turkey could provide the Celtics with the paint presence currently missing.

Peruse the NBA’s list of the top rebounders and it’ll take a while to find the first Celtic. The league’s 17th-ranked team in rebounding differential (-0.4 per game, coincidentally tied with Doc Rivers’s Clippers) is led on the glass by Jared Sullinger whose 7.0 boards ranks just 41st in the league individually. That leaves the second-year man looking up on the list at the likes of well-traveled small forward Rudy Gay, now of the Kings and never known as a big rebounder, and Shawn Marion, who was a) a member of the Phoenix Suns when Sullinger was seven years old and b) lists among his former teammates the mayor of Gay’s new city (Kevin Johnson of Sacramento). So it should come as little surprise that there are reports swirling that the Celtics are one of a few teams involved in talks to acquire center Omer Asik, who started all 82 games for the Rockets last season but is currently mismatched in Houston’s front court with Dwight Howard.

Known mainly to hardcore basketball aficionados and fantasy players, Asik, 27, was signed surprisingly prior to last season by Houston to a three-year, $25-million contract in a deal that was widely looked upon as designed so that his old team, the Bulls, had little chance of matching it. Even more surprisingly, even now, was the fact that in his first season as a starter and third NBA campaign overall, the native of Turkey led the entire league in total rebounds (956) while placing fifth in average at 11.7 per contest, numbers the Celtics haven’t seen since the days of Robert Parish (996 total rebounds, 12.5 rpg in 1988-89) and met only by a few in franchise history.

Rebounding isn’t Asik’s only skill, evidenced by a career shooting percentage of .533 and a 10.1 points per game average last season for a team that featured gunners like James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. In fact, last season Asik was one of only seven NBA players to average 10 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the floor, and one of two (with Dwight Howard) when the bar is raised to at least 11 rebounds and 52.5%.

The Celtics are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division and tied for fourth-place in an incredibly lackluster Eastern Conference However Danny Ainge has described his team’s roster as a work in progress, and adding a talent like Asik, to a roster that already includes Sullinger, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley—even at the cost of someone like Jeff Green or Brandon Bass—would be a big step in Ainge’s ultimate goal of creating a winning nucleus.

Celtics with seasons of at least 950 rebounds and 11.0 rebounds per game in a single season

  1. Bill Russell (12 times)

  2. Dave Cowens (7 times)

  3. Paul Silas (3 times)

  4. Robert Parish (once)

Celtics who shot .500 while averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds in a season

  1. Robert Parish (8 times)

  2. Larry Bird (3 times)

  3. Kermit Washington (half season)

  4. Al Jefferson (once)

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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