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Celtics notebook

Robinson injury might hasten West’s return

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / February 11, 2011

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Guard Nate Robinson left last night’s game with a bruised right knee, giving the Celtics one more injury to worry about.

Favoring his right knee with 8:45 left in the second quarter, Robinson intentionally fouled Kobe Bryant and hobbled off the floor, never returning. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was unsure how long the injury will keep Robinson out.

With Jermaine O’Neal (left knee), Shaquille O’Neal (inflamed Achilles’), Semih Erden (right adductor), Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord), and Delonte West (right wrist) all injured, the Celtics were already shorthanded. Rivers said he considered playing West last night, but decided against it.

The possibility is there, however, for West to play Sunday against Miami, but most likely his return will be Wednesday against New Jersey.

“It’s funny, before the game he asked the doctor if he could play and he and our team doctor were going back and forth on it,’’ Rivers said. “I said if they have to go back and forth on it, then the answer’s no. We’re going to practice Saturday, and I would like him actually to play in the Jersey game, just to get him one game. Even if he does play Sunday, it’ll just be 5 or 10 minutes. It won’t be much.’’

Caught off guard Rivers was asked Wednesday how much longer he thought Utah’s Jerry Sloan would coach.

“I don’t know,’’ Rivers said. “That’s the greatness of Jerry. He’ll just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m out.’ ’’

He had no idea that day would be yesterday.

In the middle of his 23d season with the Jazz, Sloan stepped down, saying he had run out of energy and that it was time to move on. There was speculation that his fractured relationship with star point guard Deron Williams played a role in the move.

“You’re too shocked to have a reaction,’’ Rivers said. “It caught us all off guard, caught me off guard.

“It’s kind of a sad day, to me, for the league. He’s been such a stable guy in the league. He’s been there like this rock, and all of a sudden the rock is gone.

“It’s like your franchise moved or something. I don’t know. It’s just strange.’’

With Sloan’s resignation, Rivers, in his seventh season with the Celtics, becomes the league’s second-longest-tenured coach, behind the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (15 seasons).

“That’s sad,’’ Rivers said.

With Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton as the anchors, Sloan took two teams to the Finals but lost both times to Michael Jordan’s Bulls. He ranks third in NBA coaching wins with 1,221.

“It’s amazing that he’s coached as many years as he has without a break,’’ said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “I was fortunate enough to have breaks in my coaching career. I think coaching 23 years, there probably is an energy thing where it takes energy out of you. There’s a time when you can’t put any more into a team.’’

The choice to leave came three days after Sloan signed a one-year contract extension, but his relationship with Williams had grown tense.

“I’m curious why,’’ said Ray Allen. “I think everybody’s curious why. If he stepped down on his own terms, if they were looking to move in another direction. Who knows?

“He led such an era, from Malone and Stockton to even before them, to now. He’s been around for a long time. He’s had a great run.’’

The Jazz have had just three coaches since moving to Utah from New Orleans in 1979.

“He’s stability for that franchise,’’ Rivers said. “Now that it’s gone, you just don’t know what to expect.’’

Fueling the fire Bryant knew he was adding to talk about Kevin Garnett’s antics this season.

“He’s a Celtic,’’ Bryant joked. “That’s what Celtics do.’’

Then, he added, “You guys will love that one.’’

But Bryant then defended Garnett.

“He’s always been intense,’’ Bryant said. “I’ve known him since high school, and he’s always been intense, but he’s a great guy.’’

Though Bryant said Garnett isn’t a villain, in terms of the teams’ rivalry, the Celtics are.

“I love to talk. Paul [Pierce] likes to talk. KG likes to talk,’’ Bryant said. “I’m probably the only one on my team that likes to talk. So I’ll probably be jawing with all of them.’’

Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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