West subs for Pierce — in practice
WALTHAM — The Celtics were already thin, with five players dealing with injuries, including Marquis Daniels, who bruised his spinal cord Sunday against the Magic. But Paul Pierce was too sick to practice yesterday, forcing Delonte West to take his place even though West is still recovering from a broken right wrist.
“It was sooner than I expected, but I definitely surprised myself,’’ said West, who broke his wrist in November and has just gotten back to catching and dribbling in the last three weeks. “I was able to go full contact. Got down in there, scrapped around with the big guys a little bit.
“My conditioning was there. My timing was a little off. A lot of things working at the same time.’’
Coach Doc Rivers expects Pierce to play tonight against the Lakers but wasn’t entirely certain.
“I’m assuming he will,’’ Rivers said. “We’ll find out tomorrow.’’
The Celtics had only 10 healthy players Monday night against the Bobcats. Jermaine O’Neal (left knee), Shaquille O’Neal (Achilles’ tendon), and Semih Erden (right abductor) are all out, leaving the Celtics lacking in the frontcourt. And with Daniels out, Pierce is the team’s only true small forward. Von Wafer will see more minutes in Daniels’s absence.
“Right now, we’re a little bit depleted, but we have three games to go before the break,’’ said team president Danny Ainge. “We feel like not too far after the All-Star break we’ll have most of our team back. So that’s encouraging.’’
Rivers said the team could make a roster move, but it depends on Daniels’s health. Daniels was released from New England Baptist Hospital Monday, but Ainge was uncertain whether he’d be back right after the All-Star break.
“The Marquis situation is still a little bit up in the air,’’ Ainge said. “You’ll probably know more in another week or so of what’s going on there, what’s going on in Marquis’s mind, get some opinions of different doctors. The fact that we don’t have Delonte healthy, that complicates that matter as well.
“I think we’re thin [at the 3] now without Marquis and without Delonte. If we had Delonte and Von to play, we’d be fine. But Delonte will be back soon. He practiced full today, he’s probably another two or three weeks away from playing.’’
West tried lobbying the trainers and coaches to play tonight, without success.
“If it was up to me, I’m confident playing,’’ West said. “But they said my timing was off and my familiarity with the plays wasn’t 100 percent and I guess in a game like [this], we need ‘for sures’ out there.’’
Rivers wasn’t in a hurry to have West back.
“Obviously, we’d love to have him,’’ Rivers said. “But it’s not tempting for me. He’s not healthy, he isn’t ready.’’
A few more minutes Initially, Rivers wanted to hold Kendrick Perkins’s minutes to the 18-20 range, but in each of the past three games, Perkins has played 30-plus. “We’re good,’’ Rivers said. “His consecutive minutes are still pretty good. We’re just going more stretches now. Perk wants to play more.’’ . . . With players and coaches around the league taking issue with Kevin Garnett in recent weeks, Ray Allen came to his defense. “I always said with certain guys in the league, you have your on-court persona and then you have your off-court,’’ said Allen. “You don’t really have to be liked when you’re playing basketball. You just want to win games and you want everybody to be afraid of your team because your guys are tough. So, I’d take that any day over somebody thinking that we were soft and you could run us over and you could beat us up because we’re either a small team or a soft team. Nobody can mistake us for that, so I like having him on my side.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.