NEW YORK — At one point, he was trending on Twitter, where Celtics fans conjured up hashtags such as #Shavalanche, #Shavage, and #NotTooShavvy.
But the idea that Shavlik Randolph would have such an impact seemed far-fetched last month when the 6-foot-10-inch forward joined the team after playing in China. After all, Randolph only became a Celtic to help fill in for other players who were injured.
And yet his production in limited playing time — Randolph has grabbed 36 rebounds in 81 minutes — has made the Celtics, who play the the Knicks Sunday at Madison Square Garden, look as if they snagged quite a find.
In fact, Randolph is averaging 21.3 rebounds per 48 minutes, which is the best average among active players this season going into Saturday. New Jersey’s Reggie Evans ranks behind Randolph, averaging 21.0. Among other Celtics, Kevin Garnett has the best rebounds-per-48-minute average (12.5).
Granted, it’s a small sample size, and that figure doesn’t mean Randolph would grab 21 rebounds in 48 minutes, but that figure does show how Randolph is rebounding at a rapid pace.
“He earned every bit of that money he’s been getting,” guard Jason Terry said after Randolph grabbed a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in about 22 minutes in a 118-107 win over Atlanta Friday.
Added Avery Bradley, “He’s player of the game to me. He played great tonight. I have a lot of respect for him. He plays so hard. And it’s hard to learn our system so fast, and I felt like he did a great job.”
Moreover, Randolph, whom the Celtics recently signed for the remainder of the season, has emerged as the possible solution in the middle while Garnett is out resting a sore ankle.
Randolph played 57 games for the Sixers in his rookie season (2005-06), then played 38 more over four seasons with three teams. His last NBA action before this current run was April 14, 2010, for Miami.
Did Randolph think he’d have this kind of NBA production when he was playing in China, hoping for a return shot to the league?
“To be honest, I really didn’t think about it,” Randolph said. “Basketball is basketball. I was trying to be the best player I could be, whether that’s playing in China, whether that’s playing in Puerto Rico, or whether that’s in the NBA.
“And I was just, every day, working on my game. It’s the same approach I’ve had since I was 14 years old. And I feel that I’ve shown that if I can string together a few years without having some kind of career-threatening, career-altering injury, that I can be an efficient player on any level.
“I’ve been able to develop for a couple seasons, I’ve gotten better, and I’m here.”
Raising his game
It’s important to note on Jeff Green’s recent improved play that it’s not so recent. He has stepped up ever since Rajon Rondo was hurt. Green is averaging 15.9 points since the All-Star point guard was declared out Jan. 27, compared with the 9.6 points that Green was averaging before then this season.
But Green has continued to raise his game even more in the past few weeks. He’s averaging 18.9 points in his last 10 games and 22.3 points in the last three, all with Garnett out.
“Well, my teammates are just looking for me,” Green said after scoring a game-high 27 Friday. “I’m taking what the defense gives me.
“You’ve got threats on the floor like [Terry], Paul [Pierce], all the guys that are open, so we benefit from what they can create, and we just want to be aggressive. Because if we can be aggressive, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Though the Celtics are shorthanded, they’re still getting big games from different players on different nights, whether it be Green, Terry, Pierce, or Jordan Crawford.
“It’s tough, you never know who’s going to get it going in what game,” Green said. “We’ve just got to go with the flow of the game and whoever has it going, we’ve just got to feed him.”
Pierce’s 20-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple double Friday dominated the box score, but tucked away in his stat line was the fact that he had just one turnover.
In the three games entering the Atlanta matchup, Pierce had 18 total turnovers, including seven when the Celtics scraped by Cleveland on a buzzer-beating layup.
“I think when he goes in the game and tries to pass, he gets himself in trouble,” coach Doc Rivers said. “When he goes into games to try to be the scorer, they’re going to double team. He’s going to have to pass.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes