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Celtics notebook

Sooner would be better

There’s not much time to adjust to changes

Clippers guard Mo Williams hits the deck during a scramble for a loose ball in the first half with the Celtics’ Paul Pierce. Clippers guard Mo Williams hits the deck during a scramble for a loose ball in the first half with the Celtics’ Paul Pierce. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 10, 2011

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At this point in the season, the Celtics are checking the calendar as much as they’re checking the standings.

A third of their roster is battling injuries, five other players have been with the team no more than two weeks, and they have just 20 games to get healthy and find a rhythm for the playoffs.

Glen Davis (strained left patellar tendon) could be the first player to return from injury (albeit not this weekend, in all likelihood), and Delonte West and Shaquille O’Neal could come back within a week, according to coach Doc Rivers. But they’re racing against the clock.

“Yeah, the clock is ticking,’’ Rivers said. “There’s no doubt about that, but the one thing I told [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] is that we need them on the floor, but we need them healthy, too. We’re going to choose health first.’’

In the meantime, the Celtics have to build a new second unit, if only to get an idea of how players will be used in the postseason.

New point guard Carlos Arroyo made his debut in last night’s loss to the Clippers, with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 15 minutes, and even though his immediate function is to give Rajon Rondo a rest, how well he plays in the coming weeks will determine his role in the playoff rotation.

Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have played well since the deadline trade, but Krstic will slip into the second unit when O’Neal returns.

Troy Murphy spent so much time on New Jersey’s bench that when the Celtics dusted him off, he hardly looked like a player who has averaged double-doubles in five of his 12 seasons. Rivers was surprised to see him passing up wide-open shots in practice.

After going 0 for 1 last night, Murphy is still searching for his first field goal as a Celtic.

“I haven’t played in two months, and coming to a new system, it’s going to take time to not only get my basketball stuff ready but offensively learn where you’re going and stuff like that,’’ Murphy said before the game. “But I feel comfortable taking the shots when they’re there, and I’ll start to do that and just start to figure everything out.’’

Sasha Pavlovic can shoot (40 percent from the floor, 35 percent on threes for his career), but the Celtics are putting a premium on his defense, as is Pavlovic.

“When my name is called, I’m going to play as hard as I can to help my team defensively,’’ he said. “Offense is going to come. If you’re going to defend, you’ve got to want to defend.’’

Since letting Tony Allen go in free agency last summer, the Celtics haven’t had a player they can sic on an opponent’s star scorer. It’s too early to say whether Pavlovic can be that.

“I have no idea who that guy is,’’ Rivers said. “We want someone to be that guy, and if Sasha becomes that, that’s great.’’

“Right now, we’re just a work in progress,’’ Paul Pierce said. “With each game they’ll get experience. Doc is putting them out there at the same time, just trying to make them play together. Hopefully, the switch will turn on eventually to where they click and try to understand what we’re trying to do as a team offensively and defensively so we can get consistent ball.

“Right now, we are just trying to start with the simple stuff until we move forward. We’ve been catching on quickly and things are going well.’’

Bully pulpit for Obama The Celtics had a chance to meet privately with President Obama Tuesday night at the Museum of Fine Arts, but before they could get to the hoop talk, there was an outstanding issue between Obama and Rivers, who ignored the president’s phone call last year after the Finals.

“He brought that up, for sure,’’ Rivers said. “I’ve learned that if it’s a 202 area code, you should probably answer it.’’

The Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Chicago Bulls, Obama’s hometown team, were a constant topic. Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, a longtime Rivers assistant, is in the running for Coach of the Year.

“He actually thanked us for giving them our guy,’’ said Ray Allen. “He was like, ‘How’d you let that guy go?’ ’’

Having watched a couple of Bulls games and having seen Kevin Garnett get chippy with Joakim Noah, Obama couldn’t help but ask Garnett about a couple of elbows he may or may not have thrown.

“Kevin had to answer that question from the President of the United States,’’ Allen said. “You have to ask him what he said. I was like, ‘Yup, he’s watching, Kevin.’ ’’

Obama is the third president Allen has met, along with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

It was the second time Rivers had talked with Obama, and he wanted to schedule another meeting, pending the Celtics’ postseason results.

“He asked me if I needed anything — which if the president asks you that, you could say many things,’’ Rivers said. “I just told him I’d like to secure a date to see him again. That’d be nice.’’

Way off target Garnett’s 19 shots were the most he’s taken since November, and even though he got the looks he wanted, he struggled, missing 14 of them. He did finish with 16 points and eight rebounds. “I knew he was human before the night, and it was confirmed,’’ Rivers joked. “He just had one of those nights. I thought he was pressing at times offensively, which he never does. I never thought he had balance on his shots. I thought everything was front rim, which to me is fatigue. So, that was tough.’’ Layups rolled off the rim and jumpers fell short. He missed all four of his third-quarter shots. “A lot of easy shots that we usually hit,’’ Garnett said. “Lord knows I missed some shots that I work on every day. But that’s what it is.’’ . . . Although he doesn’t expect Von Wafer to return soon, Rivers said the guard’s strained right calf should not keep him out for the remainder of the season. “He’ll return,’’ Rivers said. “But it will be two weeks, maybe three, maybe longer.’’ Wafer has missed two games

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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