WALTHAM - Today marks Eric Riley's one-month anniversary with the Celtics and the former Maverick, Timberwolf, Clipper, and Rocket center would like to reach another milestone in the near future.
"Yeah, my first double-double in the NBA," said Riley at yesterday morning's shoot-around at Brandeis University in preparation for last night's matchup with Patrick Ewing and the Knicks at the FleetCenter.
If there's any stop that's tailor-made for the 7-footer out of Michigan to have a double-double, it's with Boston, he said.
"I've never been on a running and pressing team like this one," said Riley, who had then career highs in points (16), rebounds (12), and blocks (5) with Don Nelson and the Mavs last season, but not all in the same game. "I like it. There are more opportunities to score and shoot the ball and to create plays."
Two years ago, after his Minnesota employment came to an end, Riley opted to play in Greece, where he figured the paycheck would be better than as an NBA sub and the increased playing time might give him a jump-start to returning to the NBA with a more positive outlook.
"That was a quick decision," he said. "Playing over there was like going back to college. They played zone, they played three guys on the Americans. I enjoyed it because I was playing 40 minutes a game. I needed that experience."
But deep down, he felt his rebounding and shot-blocking skills had a place in the NBA.
"I probably played more last year than any other year in the NBA, thanks to Don Nelson, and that's probably why I'm here now" said Riley, who was a member of an NCAA champion (Michigan, 1989) and an NBA champion (Rockets, 1994).
Signed as a free agent by the Celtics Jan. 27, Riley has been getting his starts and showing flashes of consistency, if not brilliance.
"Coming here has been a good fit for me. I like the up-and- down-court game here and when you play that style, you're going to get passes like the one I got the other night from Kenny [ Anderson] ," added Riley, in reference to a thunderous slam in the Celtics' rout of the Magic Wednesday night.
Riley, who was a second-round pick by the Mavericks in 1993, would like to hang around for the long haul and that would be an accomplishment considering his wandering around the league.
"We can have a great team here," he said. "We have a lot of scorers and Paul Pierce is better than everyone thought he'd be. We can definitely make the playoffs."
To do that, however, the Celtics will need a career year in the pivot from Riley, who had a career-high 14 rebounds against Orlando.
"[ Coach Rick Pitino] just wants me to play hard," said Riley. "He knows what I can do and right now, I'm getting more confident with every game. I'm playing against the other team's starters and I've been able to produce."
"It's a lot better than playing against the second stringers," he said. Last night, his assignment was to stay active and "keep those legs going" against Ewing.
"I'm just going to try and block his shot even though he gets it off real high and keep him off the boards," said Riley, who was traded from the Mavericks to the Rockets his rookie season before he ever put on a Dallas uniform. "Small world. The man Dallas traded my rights for was Popeye Jones and now we're teammates in Boston both looking for fresh starts."