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NBA Playoffs

Powe is lost with torn ACL

But Scalabrine may be available

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / April 22, 2009
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WALTHAM - Just when you thought the Celtics' health situation was about to get better with the expected return of Brian Scalabrine, things got worse, as Leon Powe is now done for the season.

The injury-plagued Celtics lost Powe with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee that will require surgery, coach Doc Rivers announced yesterday.

In what Rivers described as a "freak accident," Powe suffered the injury during the first quarter of the Celtics' 118-115 victory over Chicago Monday night that tied their first-round playoff series at a game apiece. Rivers said the gritty Powe played with the torn ACL for three minutes before being taken out with 10:13 left in the half.

"It's obviously a tough break. Tough break, not for our team, but for Leon," Rivers said after yesterday's light workout. "I told our guys that those are days as a coach that are very difficult because he just does so many right things.

"He played three minutes with a torn ACL on the floor. He didn't come out. He kept playing. It just says so much about Leon Powe the person. Forget the playoffs and all that stuff. That is just a tough injury for a kid who has done everything right.

"That makes no sense. It's a tough, tough moment."

Powe has a history of major injuries to his knees, specifically the left one, dating to his high school days in the Bay Area.

He had reconstructive surgery on his left knee in the spring of 2002 after his junior season at Oakland Tech High School. He also had reconstructive surgery on his left knee and bone graft surgery during his sophomore year at Cal.

This year, Powe missed 10 games from March 18 to April 8 with a right knee sprain and returned to action April 14 against Philadelphia.

Powe, 25, who will be a free agent this offseason, averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17.5 minutes during 70 games in the regular season.

Rivers said Powe was not at the practice facility yesterday; the coach told him to "take some quiet time for himself."

"It's tough," said Rivers. "You know the whole circumstances with the contract year and all that stuff. It's just a lot of bad things. That's part of the sport. It's a tough one.

"We talked a little bit. There is not a lot you can say. The game, when you talk to him at that moment, is not as important as life. I don't think people understand that sometimes. They put their careers on the line every time they go on the floor."

Said Celtics forward Glen Davis, "Tough break. He's very competitive. I think what he needs to focus on right now is getting healthy."

With Powe and Kevin Garnett (right knee sprain) out, the Celtics have three healthy big men in Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and Mikki Moore. Scalabrine, however, expects to be activated for Game 3 in Chicago tomorrow; it would be his first action since Feb. 19 at Denver. He has suffered three concussions this season and has been sidelined since February with postconcussion syndrome.

"I know his rhythm is off right now," said Davis, "but it gives us another body at the 4 position."

Said Perkins, "He can come in and play some good minutes for us. I know it's kind of hard for him just to take chances [healthwise]. I just feel he has to come in and give us a lift."

Scalabrine did conditioning drills yesterday and expects to practice with no holds barred today. While Rivers seemed tentative about using Scalabrine tomorrow, he doesn't have many options. Scalabrine is confident that he is ready to go.

"Obviously, he takes on a bigger role if he can come back," Rivers said. "Going into Game 3 with only three bigs would be very difficult. But I'm preparing for that.

"I know Scal has a chance to play. But I'm preparing for the game like he is not playing, just in case. The way things have gone, you almost have to do that.

"There is no guarantee how he could feel. Just the running could bother him."

Said Scalabrine, "You can't have restrictions. If I practice on Wednesday, I'm playing on Thursday. There can't be any restrictions. You go out there and figure it out."

Scalabrine, who shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range in 39 games this season, is hoping he can add perimeter shooting to open driving lanes for Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.

While he acknowledged he'd be rusty, Scalabrine said he is mentally and physically ready to return to action.

"As far as my wind? All my numbers are better as far as conditioning drills," Scalabrine said. "Conditioning drills, I'm in better shape. But I know that the basketball is different. I know the timing I got to get back.

"Mentally, am I 100 percent? Will I know until we go out there and play? Probably not. If I get popped and I don't get a concussion, then we are probably in a better position. That's the only way you can do it.

"I'm having no symptoms. I'm not having any headaches, motion dizziness, or anything like that. I've been pushing myself like crazy to go to that next level."

Although Garnett has forgone right knee surgery for the time being in hopes of returning to action, Rivers didn't think Powe's injury would push Garnett to return.

"I don't think anything influences that," said Rivers. "It is what it is with him. It doesn't change it one way or the other."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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