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Rivers, Celtics prepare for Lin

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 4, 2012
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WALTHAM - Doc Rivers gained only a fleeting impression of Jeremy Lin during the Celtics’ 91-89 win over the Knicks Feb. 3. But, unlike most observers on that night, Rivers gained a favorable evaluation of Lin, who scored 2 points in a six-minute, 36-second appearance.

“He played well,’’ Rivers said yesterday. “In my game notes, I said, ‘I think Jeremy Lin’s a pretty good player.’’

Rivers acknowledged that he did not predict stardom for Lin, who will start for the Knicks against the Celtics today.

“I didn’t think this,’’ Rivers said. “[But] I should have had him sign it right after the game. I could have made millions.’’

A week later, Lin scored 38 points in New York’s win over the Lakers.

“I’ll have to check with Kobe [Bryant] and see how to guard that,’’ Rivers joked. “I have watched him, because you have no choice. He’s been fantastic, he’s scoring the ball at a high rate, double-digit assists every night. He’s bigger than you think, at least going by film that’s how it looked.

“They still have other guys on their team who are good, too. They added guys - Baron Davis is now back, J.R. Smith was a good pickup for them. They have a heck of a lot of pieces. Look at them on paper, there is an impressive amount of talent on their team.’’

The Celtics (18-17), who lead the Knicks by a half-game in the standings, have been near full strength with the recent returns of Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett. Lin, who was on the verge of being waived, sparked the team while Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire recovered.

“When Kevin, [Rajon] Rondo, and Brandon were out we lost all our games,’’ Rivers said. “When Carmelo and Stoudemire were out, they won all their games because someone stepped up and picked them up.

“They’re much better because Carmelo and Stoudemire are healthy, they found two point guards in Lin and Davis, and they added J.R. Smith. That’s a heck of a team, and we have to be ready for that.’’

Celtics reserve point guard Avery Bradley has known Lin since a pre-draft camp in Las Vegas two years ago.

“I know Jeremy’s a good player, he’s real crafty,’’ Bradley said. “I already knew he could play and now he’s got his chance to make the most of it. And we’re just going to be prepared and execute our game plan - how we’re going to hold him, defend him. Not only him, but all the other players on their team. We’re out there together.’’

The Celtics practiced for about an hour, following a video session yesterday. Ray Allen (illness) viewed the workout from the balcony and Bradley (ankle sprain) worked out separately. Both Allen and Bradley could be available for today’s game. Center Jermaine O’Neal (wrist) is out.

“It is a big one for us, definitely,’’ Celtics center Chris Wilcox said. “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll be all right.’’

Asked about Lin, Wilcox replied, “That’s what they’ve got. We’ve got a good point guard in Rondo and that’s what we’re sticking with.

“I really haven’t played with a point guard like [Rondo] - maybe my first year with Andre Miller, but I really didn’t play a lot that year. I mean, Rondo brings a lot of energy, he pushes the ball up the floor. It took a couple games, I had to feel him out and he had to feel me out, but now I’m in the right spots for him.

“I just run the floor and it just opens it up for everyone else. It makes his job easier, my job easier, when I run the floor. I know where he wants me, where he’s going most of the time. I just run the floor and get open for him and that’s how I get most of my points anyway.’’

The Celtics mostly viewed video of their offense, then went through a walk-through workout defensively.

“Both teams want to win the game, it will be a competitive game,’’ Rivers said. “It’s an important game for both teams. I think that’s good in the regular season.’’

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

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