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TORONTO — Mickael Pietrus wanted to return to the Celtics, hoping that offseason right knee surgery that improved his flexibility and athleticism would convince the club to bring him back. It didn’t.
Pietrus, who was a key player off the bench in the Celtics’ run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, signed with the Raptors in late November and was a steady contributor until being replaced in the rotation by rookie Terrence Ross. Entering Wednesday night’s game against Boston, Pietrus hasn’t played since Jan. 9 because of left knee soreness and the decisions of coach Dwane Casey.
Pietrus lobbied last season for the Celtics to re-sign him but his ailing knee and shooting troubles prompted the club to pursue Courtney Lee.
“I was happy to see my old friends and obviously you can’t forget what we went through last summer with this team,” Pietrus said before the Celtics’ 99-95 win over the Raptors. “It was great to share in that moment with them and to see their faces made me feel good. I wanted to be part of the Boston Celtics family but I am not mad at management or anything. I still love those guys. We had a great run and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. They got my knee right and today I’m happy.”
The swingman said he played most of last season at far less than 100 percent.
“I knew it was something that was going to cost me three or four months to really be ready to play and I thought I was going to be ready for training camp for Boston and I was but the management have to do what they do,” he said.
“Just being part of the history, I loved it. I thought I was going back. Not only me but the whole building thought I was coming back. I did not, so we’ll see.”
Since the injuries to Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, coach Doc Rivers has gone with a 10-deep lineup, something he said in previous years he didn’t prefer. But with no primary scoring guard and an inconsistent bench this season, he said he will go with various rotations, meaning that every current active player besides Fab Melo should get minutes.
And that was the case Wednesday, when 10 players logged minutes for the Celtics, including the trio of Jason Terry (26), Jeff Green (27), and Leandro Barbosa (27).
“I think it’s who we have to be,” Rivers said. “It almost works for us in a lot of ways. You feel like a basketball manager with relief pitchers. When your two guards who start are tired or struggling, you signal in your other two guards and they come in with a completely different pace and the way they play with Jet [Terry] and LB [Barbosa], and Jeff almost has to be with that group to give them a ballhandler.
“There’s times where we’ll go nine and play only one extra big. But with Kevin [Garnett’s] minute restriction you’re almost forced to play 10.”
Further speculation had the Clippers beefing up their offer to the Celtics for Garnett, replacing Caron Butler with young center DeAndre Jordan to go with point guard Eric Bledsoe. But an NBA source said Wednesday the sides have not discussed any deals, much less specifics of a Garnett trade.
400 for Rivers
Wednesday was the 400th win for Rivers as Celtics coach, and he trails only Tom Heinsohn (427 from 1969 to 1978) and the legendary Red Auerbach (795 from 1950 to 1966). Rivers said he was unaware of the milestone but was grateful.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I thought it was the 400th of my career, I didn’t know it was with the Celtics, so that’s cool and to be behind those two guys is pretty special for me.”
Rivers has 571 career wins, 171 with the Magic.
The Raptors welcomed back former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani after he missed nearly two months with a torn ligament in his left elbow. He was effective in his 24 minutes Wednesday, scoring 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting with 3 rebounds and 2 steals . . . Forward Landry Fields (acute back spasms) and swingman Linas Kleiza (sore right knee) were out for Toronto . . . Rivers received his third technical foul of the season for arguing calls with official Brent Barnaky with 3:59 left in the first half. Rivers kept jawing to Barnaky until guard Avery Bradley came over and told Rivers to calm down . . . Wednesday was the third time Paul Pierce has led the Celtics in both rebounds and assists this season and he has double-digit rebounds in four of the past five games.