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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Banks looks ready for takeoff

Late start doesn't slow point guard

Welcome back, Marcus. That nonstop noise you hear in your ear is your coach.

Marcus Banks is back with the Celtics, which, if history is any judge, means two things. He alternately will dazzle us with his speed and strength even as he bewilders us with his decisions. And coach Doc Rivers will be riding Banks at every opportunity.

Tonight's game against Utah marks Banks's fourth this season; he missed the first 21 games recovering from a stress fracture in his left tibia. He started Monday night. He may start again tonight if Delonte West's head is still spinning. Either way, he plays. And when he plays, he hears it from his coach, a former point guard himself.

''He's always been tough on me," Banks said. ''But I can handle the negativity. What he's saying is the truth. He's right. I need to do things better."

What Banks may lack in Point Guard 101 skills, he more than makes up for in Confidence 101. The guy already has been traded twice (once by Boston and then again back to Boston) and the Celtics decided not to pick up the option for the fourth year of his rookie deal, something basketball boss Danny Ainge at one time called ''a no-brainer."

When Banks went down with the stress fracture in training camp, you could have made a case that he was the fourth-string point guard behind West, Dan Dickau, and Orien Greene.

Now, Dickau is out for the season (Achilles' tear) and West is still a bit woozy from a Saturday night collision with Mike Sweetney in Chicago. Greene is a rookie. That confluence of events led to Banks starting Monday and he acquitted himself well (16 points, 3 assists) in the win over the Warriors, even if he did play more than the 20 minutes (he went 28) Rivers said was Banks's time limit.

''I didn't even think about it until after the game," Rivers said, referring to Banks's minutes. ''I looked down and noticed I was over the allotment.

''You gotta be careful because it is a stress fracture. Twenty-five minutes will be fine."

Said Banks, ''My wind is fine. The main thing for me now is getting repetitions and getting confident out there. I'm ready to play. I'm here. I'm going to go all-out."

Banks said his time on the sidelines was well spent -- watching other point guards. ''I watched them to see how they ran the pick and roll," he said. ''I learned a lot."

So much so, apparently, that Rivers has singled out Banks as the one point guard who can run the pick and roll. But, and there's usually a ''but," the coach said there's more to the pick and roll than setting up the play. ''What he has to improve on," Rivers said, ''is once he gets into the pick and roll, the decisions [he makes]."

Rivers said Banks missed an opportunity at one point Monday to take off on Baron Davis, preferring instead to run the play that had been called. But, the coach said, he told Banks that if Banks had beaten Davis and then missed the shot, ''I would have screamed at him for that." Then, Rivers said by way of explanation, ''No, that's not really true."

Try convincing Banks.

''Doc is still on me. We have a talk every day," Banks said. ''He wants the best out of me and the best thing I can do is make that happen. It's things like controlling the tempo of the game, getting guys shots. Playing my role.

''Actually, I need it. I have a couple of [bad] habits I need to get out of. And he tells me about them every day. He knows best. He's the coach."

West says he's ready

West showed up 90 minutes before practice started and then went wire to wire after being sent home Monday night because of dizziness. West said he'll play tonight. ''I expect to be in uniform," West said. Rivers said that would likely be the case, but said he wasn't all that happy with what he saw at practice. ''I didn't think [West looked] great," Rivers said. ''He said he felt good. Sometimes you watch for stuff until you don't think he looks right. He fell four or five times. One time he just fell down, and you're thinking, `It must be his head.' He'll play [tonight] unless he has some kind of setback. I think he'll be fine. They didn't find anything on the CAT scan." . . . Rivers was overheard discussing discipline with West after practice and fined the second-year guard. When asked what that was all about, Rivers said, ''something minuscule. No big deal." . . . Ricky Davis was not at practice. Rivers said Davis had an excused absence. ''I think it's something personal," Rivers said. ''I'm actually not sure what it was." . . . Tony Allen, who dressed for the first time Monday but did not play, will be in uniform tonight and could make his 2005-06 debut. Rivers said Allen had trouble handling and shooting the ball, but otherwise appeared to have his speed and quickness back. ''You're going to fumble the ball when you miss games, especially speed players," Rivers said. ''You can't work on speed dribbling when you've got a bad knee so [when] you get in the game, you almost feel clumsy. So, I thought Tony had a frustrating practice in that way. But the fact he was blowing by guys was really nice to see." . . . Utah will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back situation. The Celtics are 4-0 this season in games when the opponent has played the night before and the Celtics have been idle.

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