Blount Filling up the Middle

March 22, 2003
LOS ANGELES - At the mention of Shaquille O'Neal, Mark Blount cracks a big smile. Even as the Celtics' backup center, he relishes the challenge of facing the best big man in the game.

Blount knows that even the smallest contributions can make a big difference against O'Neal and the Lakers. But a little wasn't nearly enough last night. O'Neal scored 48 points and had 20 rebounds in the Lakers' 104-96 win. 

   "I love it out here," Blount said before the game. "I learned a lot coming out here [to the Western Conference]. I played against the best competition every night and it was great. I enjoy going into games against Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, Tim Duncan, all those guys, especially Shaquille."

Last night, Blount contributed 6 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes.

Since arriving in Boston in a Feb. 20 trade, Blount has made a noticeable impact in the middle. He has brought an aggressive attitude and physical presence, which is most often seen on the glass. In 13 games with the Celtics, Blount is averaging 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18.0 minutes. He tied a career high in rebounds when he recorded 11 against San Antonio March 9, including a career-high eight offensive boards.

Inevitably, there are comparisons to the numbers posted by Vin Baker - 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes. Blount had already assumed the backup role before Baker was suspended Feb. 27.

"I have been pleased," said coach Jim O'Brien. "Mark brings aggressiveness, speed on the court, from the standpoint of helping us in transition defense. He's aware of his defensive role and he knows the offense, so he was certainly a good pickup for us."

Since rejoining Boston, Blount has averaged 5.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 17.3 minutes against such Western Conference foes as the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers, and Grizzlies.

"I'm just trying to come in and help, especially on the defensive end and rebounding," said Blount. "That's what I'm concentrating on. If I get shots, that's irrelevant. I just want to try to come in and keep the energy up. I think that's the most important thing we need now. I try to get on the boards, try to get some second shots, try to start the break a little bit, stuff like that so we can get some easy baskets. I look at what Tony's out there doing and I just try to come in on the defensive end and add a little bit more to it."

After facing the Lakers, the Celtics headed to Denver for tonight's game against the worst team in the West. Boston sent Shammond Williams, a 2003 second-round pick, and cash to Denver in exchange for Blount and forward Mark Bryant. If all goes well in Boston, Blount said he'd like to re-sign with the Celtics as a free agent this summer.

Returning to Denver will be no sentimental journey for Blount, who figured he would stop at the Denver Diner, but otherwise rest up for the game. Now that he's on a playoff-bound team, there is little looking back.

"They gave me a chance,: said Blound of the Nuggets. "I played. I started out there for about two months. I had a good chance to improve. I think them for that."

The Celtics can thank the Nuggets for sending Blount back.

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