WALTHAM -- As he does after most practices, interim Celtics coach John Carroll settled into a black leather chair at courtside for his session with the media. Before a question could be asked, Carroll opened by saying, "We just had a spirited practice."
Everyone soon learned why: Ricky Davis and Mark Blount were, as Carroll put it, "excused" from practice after tempers flared between the two. Carroll, adding that it was just "another day at the office," said both players would be in uniform and ready to go tonight against the Denver Nuggets.
Carroll would not say why he sent the two players home.
"I excused them from practice," he said. Asked if that was good or bad, Carroll said, "Depends on how you take it. I know how I take it -- another day at the office."
However, one player who asked to remain unidentified said there was no physical contact between the two, just a lot of trash talking. The gist of the disagreement, according to the player, was Blount telling Davis to tone down the hot dog antics.
Celtics center Chris Mihm, when asked about the dismissals, said, "It happens every once in a while. I don't think it's as much a distraction to the team; ideally, you'd want the guys out there during a practice the day before a game. That kind of stuff happens. Tempers flare when practice gets competitive. It's unfortunate that it happened, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
It was unclear when Blount and Davis were banished. By the time the media were allowed to watch practice, roughly 75 minutes after it was scheduled to start, neither player was there.
It's not all that surprising that, if there was to be a little contention, it would involve Blount and Davis. Blount has been openly critical of the midseason move by Danny Ainge that brought Davis, Mihm, and Michael Stewart to the Celtics for Eric Williams, Tony Battie, and Kedrick Brown. Davis was the centerpiece of the deal from Boston's perspective. Blount is also going to be a free agent at the end of the season and talked last week about possibly reuniting with former Celtics coach Jim O'Brien.
Davis came to Boston with a high-maintenance reputation, having worn out welcomes in Charlotte, Miami, and Cleveland. But aside from some on-court showboating and a dreadful game in Toronto recently (a Sunday afternoon affair), he has not been a discipline problem.
Yesterday's dust-up came six days after Davis muffed a breakaway dunk against the Lakers, trying to wind the ball between his legs in the process. Although he was able to retrieve the ball and execute a second windmill dunk, Davis was subsequently told by Carroll that the objective of any such breakaway should be 2 points -- that there are no additional points for style, creativity, or theatrics. Davis said after the game that he didn't care what the reaction was, that he was only interested in winning. . . .
The Nuggets make their only FleetCenter appearance tonight, and with them comes rookie Carmelo Anthony, who is perceived to be neck-and-neck with LeBron James in the race for Rookie of the Year. Anthony leads the Nuggets in scoring and minutes and is third in rebounds and assists. (Among rookies, he is second in scoring, third in rebounding and sixth in assists.) "I saw him a year ago when he played for [Syracuse coach] Jim Boeheim," Carroll said. "I'm not a real big talent evaluator, but I knew right away when I saw him he was an NBA player. You could see his game wasn't collegiate. It was professional. His game was one-on-one, catch the ball, back you down, jab you, shoot the jump shot, take you to the rim. He's a wonderful basketball player. He's got great length and size. He can take a hit. He's good, real good." This won't be Anthony's first appearance in the FleetCenter. He led eventual champion Syracuse to a pair of wins here a year ago in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament . . . After coming off what Carroll termed the hardest stretch of the season (five games in seven days), the Celtics will play only three games in a span of 12 days. After tonight's game, they will travel to Texas tomorrow for games against the Mavericks (Friday) and Spurs (Saturday). They then do not play until the following Friday, when they host the Nets . . . Denver has not been in the playoffs since 1994-95, a span of eight straight seasons. Only the Warriors (nine straight) have a longer drought.
Shira Springer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.