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Pierce a member in good standing

Foot MRI negative, he’ll play against Nets

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By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / February 15, 2011

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WALTHAM — Paul Pierce’s left foot checked out healthy after a magnetic resonance imaging yesterday. But not healthy enough for him to participate in practice, nor for him to work out today.

“Everything’s good, I think there’s some bruising, swelling,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce. “But he can play. He’s going to play [tomorrow vs. the Nets].’’

This does not mean Pierce is completely recovered from an injury that contributed to his 1-point outing in the Celtics’ 85-82 win over Miami Sunday. But Pierce will have time to recover after tomorrow’s game against New Jersey.

“It’s just one of those things where if someone hits you with a baseball bat on the arm, it takes time to heal,’’ said Rivers, who will coach the Eastern Conference team in Sunday’s All-Star Game. “He got kicked in the heel a couple games ago, hit on the hand the same way in the same game.

“So, the break is coming at a great time. We’ll not practice him [today] as a precaution, so nobody hits him. And that’s going to be difficult for Paul — he likes to practice. I know the coach in the All-Star Game — he probably won’t play a lot in that game.’’

The Celtics had a light practice yesterday. Assistant coaches Kevin Eastman, Armond Hill, Mike Longabardi, Tyronn Lue, and Roy Rogers made up the opposition for most of a walkthrough setup.

Before the session started, Rivers told the team Pierce contributed to the victory with defense and intangibles. “People look at the 1 point, I look at the 39 minutes,’’ he said. “If you’re not getting it done one way, you have to do something else.’’

Rivers also jokingly threatened to fine Glen Davis for missing a breakaway.

Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) and Pierce watched the start of the workout, then departed.

West set for return Delonte West (wrist) is slated to return against the Nets.

“The only thing is, if [today] he gets through practice and it’s sore, we’ll pull him,’’ Rivers said. “It will be great to get him one game. He’ll also understand how far he is away with timing and stuff, it will give him a gauge to how much he has to work.’’

“It’s getting better each day,’’ said West. “It’s still a significant amount of pain but nothing life-threatening, or nothing career-threatening. I’m going to have to endure a little pain.’’

West will provide point guard relief for Rajon Rondo, pairing with Nate Robinson.

“Nate has had the ball in his hands way too much,’’ Rivers said. “We’ve had no choice. We’ve tried to go with the Rondo-Nate combination but sometimes the other teams don’t cooperate and go small at the guard spots. That’s why we made Delonte the point on everything [in practice], so he can get used to it.

“The problem is, he doesn’t know the sets yet. You know it in [drills], but then when the game gets live, all of a sudden you don’t know it anymore, so it’s going to take him some time.’’

An O’Neal works out Center Jermaine O’Neal, recovering from knee surgery, worked out separately.

“He’s doing great, actually,’’ Rivers said. “I think he feels really happy he did the surgery. It’s a race for him because he wants to get back and try and help us.’’

Daniels “will not be back any time soon,’’ Rivers said.

Semih Erden (right adductor strain) missed practice but could return soon.

Shaquille O’Neal (sore right Achilles’) is possible for the Celtics’ four-game road trip after the break.

“Shaq, honestly, is just not healing right now,’’ Rivers said. “When he was first injured we all thought it was going to be a one- or two-game thing. Obviously, it’s longer. We’re hoping he’ll play on the West Coast, we’re thinking he will — maybe not every game, maybe every other game.

“It hasn’t improved at all, not one bit. It’s rest and treatment. It’s not a concern because they’ve done X-rays, there’s nothing there, but when you play basketball and get to 38 it takes longer.

“Semih is the guy who has improved the most. Three days ago, we said Semih would not play on the West Coast trip, and Shaq would. It’s the exact opposite — Semih will be ready.’’

Tough talk Rivers on the Celtics’ style of play and Rondo’s recovery from a Zydrunas Ilgauskas screen Sunday: “We get all this talk about being physical, we’re just playing defense. That’s the point I keep making to our team — defense is physical, defense is hard, and other teams don’t want you to play it. So, all of a sudden, they lose their cool. And we can’t react. Toughness is taking the hits and walking away, toughness is not reacting, that’s a weakness, and that’s what we keep trying to tell our guys. We’re going to keep making tough plays, set hard picks, we’re going to defend, and games are going to be physical. We have to accept that in return, as well, and just keep playing through it. The last two games we didn’t react and we actually got points. I was really proud, because that’s not what we’ve been.’’ . . . Rivers on Rondo’s attempt to edge into a Miami oncourt huddle: “I didn’t like the huddle thing, honestly, I don’t think we ever need to do that stuff. The point he was making, it wasn’t a timeout — his basketball IQ is so good that he’s the only one who realized that. Even Miami was acting like he couldn’t be in the [huddle during a] timeout — it wasn’t a timeout. Still, I don’t like it. Just play the game, get over it. But he’s right and it’s tough to argue with it.’’

Zoning in The Celtics are about to alter their defense, partly because of lack of manpower.

“I can’t stand zone but we’re going to work on it every day,’’ Rivers said. “I will, eventually [go to a zone] out West. With the numbers we have we’re going to have to just to save guys, and because of fouls.

“I hate it, because when you shoot, nobody is on bodies, and offensive rebounds. Mentally, guys think of zone as a concession and they don’t guard the guy like they would in a ‘man.’

“I do think there is some use for it if you do it the right way. A good zone is a ‘man,’ anyway. We have the guys to be great at it. They have to buy into it and that’s the tough part.’’

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

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