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A little pain for the Celtics

Pierce’s absence not huge concern

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / December 25, 2009

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ORLANDO, Fla. - When the Celtics made this trip last May, they were adjusting to season-ending knee injuries to Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe. After being eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Orlando Magic in a seven-game series, the Celtics reinforced their bench and awaited Garnett’s recovery.

All seemed to be going according to plan this season until recent days when Garnett sustained a thigh bruise and Paul Pierce underwent surgery for an infection in his right knee. Suddenly, the Celtics seemed on the verge of a potential crisis.

But all was well - or least better than expected - at the team’s practice session at Freedom High School yesterday.

Garnett was in a spirited mood following a one-game absence and will play against the Magic today. Pierce is not on this four-game road trip, but could return sooner than the initial projection of two weeks. And forward Glen Davis (broken right thumb) trained at full speed and could be activated today.

Asked about Garnett, coach Doc Rivers said, “He looked great, he’ll be fine, so that’s the best news. Honestly, I told Kevin, if I didn’t think he was moving well, I was going to sit him tomorrow, too. We’re looking for the long term.

Rivers said Pierce’s timetable for a return - he had a surgical procedure Wednesday - was a “guesstimate by a doctor who never played basketball. I think it may be shorter than two weeks.’’

But Rivers added that this was “not anything he could have played on.’’

Garnett and Pierce rarely miss practices. But since Garnett had bone spur problems in his knee last season, Rivers has been able to convince him to rest at times. But Rivers was “talked into’’ allowing Pierce to play in a game he should have missed at Indiana earlier this season.

“Coming into this league, being fortunate to be in this league, I learned from gutty veterans like Sam [Cassell] and Terry Porter,’’ said Garnett. “Those guys pushed through a lot of things. So I had great examples around me. I never want to sit during practice. I don’t believe in days off unless the coach gives them to you.

“So my thing is to work, and that’s what I do when I come to the gym, I work. And Doc Rivers’s mentality is sometimes to take days off, and I don’t believe in that. Sometimes he’s right and you’ve got to listen to your body. And as I get older, it’s probably the smart thing to do.’’

Rivers revealed the details of the events leading up to Pierce’s operation at New England Baptist Hospital. About 3 a.m. Wednesday, five hours after scoring 21 points in a 103-94 win over Indiana at TD Garden, Pierce called trainer Eddie Lacerte because of pain and swelling in his knee.

“He was fine the night before,’’ Rivers said. “This all happened overnight, the infection started, fluid started, they had to drain the knee, and bam, he’s out. He woke up in the middle of the night and his leg was hurting.

“Because he never calls Eddie, that’s what alerted Eddie that he should just go to Paul’s house and see what was going on. Honestly, if it was probably half the other guys, Eddie would have gone back to sleep.

“But Paul, he literally never, never complains, he never misses a practice, and it was just unusual for him to complain about pain. So Eddie went over and saw it and he reacted right away.’’

After a magnetic resonance imaging, team physician Brian McKeown operated.

“I think it may be shorter than two weeks, but we just don’t know,’’ Rivers said.

Asked if he was concerned about Pierce’s condition, Rivers replied, “No, it’s just what it was, an infection, and it’s taken care of. So I’m not that concerned by it. I’m always concerned by anything that takes you out, I’m concerned any time you go to the hospital. But, other than that, he’s good.

“The tough part about Paul’s injury is Marquis [Daniels] is out as well. So our two ‘3’s’ are out of the game. We’ve just got to make an adjustment. No one is going to feel sorry for us, I can guarantee you that.

“We have our ideas and we’re going to move it around, you’ll see [today]. I’m not worried.

“Because we need a warm body, we may activate [Davis]. Other than that, the other things are just injuries that happen during the season and nothing you can do about them.’’

Pierce did not miss a game because of injury last season.

Davis “was just as shocked as everybody else’’ about Pierce’s injury. Bill Walker, called up from the Maine Red Claws to fill Pierce’s roster spot, said, “I thought somebody was joking.’’

“He’s always at practice, he’s always taking care of his body, he’s always in games,’’ Ray Allen said. “For him not to be out here, I know it’s got to be very significant.

“Paul’s our leading scorer. It’s definitely going to affect us, but we can only play five guys at a time. So other guys are going to have to step up and play big for us. We have to be more efficient, our mistakes have to become a lot fewer.’’

Allen said the Celtics received advice recently concerning infections.

“We had just been talking in the locker room about infections in general, staph infections, different things,’’ Allen said. “The team had an infection where they had to sanitize the whole locker room, put these hand sanitizers up all over the place.

“I don’t really know what he’s dealing with now, how it affected his knee. He looked good when he walked out of the locker room [after the Indiana game]. I’m curious to get more information.

“It’s something that all of us can keep from happening - if it’s something he did, something he ate, or if his body just reacted in a certain way.

“These type of situations, I think, on good teams, it makes them better, because guys step up, they play better minutes, and you see the depth more than you would any other way.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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