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An out call

Celtics' orders: Garnett must rest

By Frank Dell'Apa and Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / April 1, 2009
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WALTHAM - The Celtics plan to shut down Kevin Garnett until the final week of the regular season, but his right knee will not require immediate surgery, according to an NBA source.

The source said the decision was made following the Orlando game last Wednesday after Garnett met with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers and confirmed as Garnett limped through the early part of yesterday's practice. Garnett is experiencing soreness and has difficulty loosening the muscles in the knee.

Garnett was injured during a Feb. 19 game at Utah, an MRI the next day revealing nothing more than a muscle strain. He has since gotten a second opinion confirming there is no ligament damage, according to the source.

The source said Garnett has no structural damage, only the effects of wear and tear, though he could have a minor arthroscopic procedure after the season.

"We're just going to shut him down until we feel that he's ready," said Rivers. "It's nothing structural, it's the same thing that it's been, it's just not reacting the way we thought it would react.

"Just his gait, he just doesn't look right, and I'm not going to chance that."

The Celtics are being conservative in bringing back Garnett to have him fresh for the playoffs and protect their investment. Garnett has three years remaining on a $20 million annual contract.

Garnett was expected to gradually regain fitness and strength but apparently suffered a setback after playing a total of 67 minutes in four games. He struggled during the Celtics' visit to Orlando last Wednesday (an 84-82 loss), then met with Ainge and Rivers before the visit to Atlanta Friday.

He will miss his third game in succession when the Celtics host Charlotte tonight.

"He's not very happy about it," Rivers said. "He's frustrated, but understanding, I will say that. But he didn't fight it, which tells you as much as you need to know."

Though Rivers hopes Garnett will return April 12 and will be ready for the playoffs, which begin April 20, even those target dates are in question. The fact that Garnett has acceded to the advice of Rivers, team physician Brian McKeown, and trainer Ed Lacerte indicates the severity of the problem.

The plan was to have Garnett take advantage of practice time during the Celtics' five-game homestand, which started with a 103-84 win over Oklahoma City Sunday, but that was scrapped after yesterday.

"The whole key for us right now is making sure he's healthy, regardless if it's three games or even the rest of the season," said Paul Pierce. "The most important thing is his health and, hopefully, getting him back on the court for the playoffs. Only Kevin knows his body; doctors aren't always right.

"I want him to be 100 percent, but Kevin at 75 percent is just as good as anybody in the league. So, right now, I'm more concerned about his health. If he does come back this year or if he doesn't come back this year, it's about him getting healthy."

Garnett could return for the Celtics' trip to Cleveland April 12 and Philadelphia April 14. Their final regular-season game will be at home against Washington April 15.

Asked if he was worried about Garnett, center Kendrick Perkins replied, "Yeah, it's always a concern. He had a month off of rest and comes back and is still not fully recovered. It's still kind of scary.

"But at the same time, you are dealing with a warrior, so he'll find a way to get back. Whether or not he'd be 100 percent for the playoffs, I'll take a 70 percent or 60 percent KG in the playoffs."

Glen Davis will continue to start in place of Garnett.

"This team is a no-excuse type of team," said Pierce. "Whatever happens happens. As far as the guys that we have, we're just going to go out there and show we're the defending champs."

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com; Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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