|Michael Pietrus (left) played late into the fourth quarter Friday, helping Paul Pierce defend Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. (Frank gunn/Associated Press)|
Pietrus is forced to play catch-up
Busy schedule helps guard get into shape
NEWARK - Mickael Pietrus is slowly working back into basketball shape while recovering from a concussion, all amid a busy portion of the Celtics’ already difficult schedule.
Saturday night against the Nets was the guard’s third game after missing nearly three weeks following a frightening fall March 23 against the 76ers. In the first two games (against Atlanta and Toronto), he had a total of 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting and logged 53 minutes, mostly because of the ankle injury to Ray Allen.
“I’m not close to where I was,’’ he said before scoring 5 points in the Celtics’ 94-82 win. “When you’re dealing with a concussion, you have to experience a couple of things before you get back to where you came from. At the same time, just trying to get through a rhythm so I can help the team in the playoffs because I know that right now a lot of games are going to come for us and it’s very important.’’
Pietrus was a key bench player before his injury and coach Doc Rivers was forced to throw him back into the rotation with heavy minutes because of a lack of depth. So Pietrus is using games to get into shape.
“I haven’t played for three weeks, so I have to put more minutes and more games under my legs so in the playoffs I won’t have any problems,’’ he said. “At the same time, you can always get your rhythm, not offensively but defensively.’’
Pietrus laughed when asked if had ever played three games in three nights - the Celtics play Sunday in Charlotte.
“Yes in Europe,’’ he said. “Sometimes we played four games in a row. I think the NBA got that from us. You just have to enjoy it.’’
Pierce injures toe
Paul Pierce jammed his left big toe in the fourth quarter and his status for Sunday’s game against the Bobcats is uncertain. Pierce said he discussed the possibility of taking a game off before the playoffs with Rivers and the Charlotte game may serve as an opportunity.
Gerald Green, a former Celtics’ first-round pick, found himself out of the NBA soon after he was traded to the Timberwolves in 2007 in the Kevin Garnett deal. Green is back, playing with the Nets and averaging 13 points and 3.3 rebounds off the bench. And he said the experience of playing for Rivers for two seasons is more meaningful now than during his early years in the league.
He scored 15 points off the bench Saturday, including a 3-pointer from 31 feet to end the first half.
“Just maturity, man, maturity is everything in life,’’ he said. “I think I’m a lot different person. When I came to the Celtics [in 2005], I was a little boy, fresh out of high school. I didn’t really go a lot of places, really didn’t do a lot of big things. Me coming to the Celtics was eye opening to a lot of different things in life. It was a little bombarding at times and me being immature was hard to handle. But it really helped me out in the long run.’’
Rivers is notoriously tough on rookies and younger players, but said he always rooted for Green because, “he was a good kid.’’
“I am so proud of him, probably as proud as I have been of any guy because he just needed time to grow up,’’ Rivers said. “I thought he was a pretty good player when he walked in the league. But he had to figure things out in life and a lot of guys don’t do that. Most don’t. To watch how he’s performing and how he’s carrying himself, we talked a good while when we played up in Boston and you were like ‘Wow that’s Gerald Green?’ He had to figure it out at some point and maybe he found it in Russia. He found it at some point.’’
Allen still on hold
Rivers said Allen will not play in Charlotte and is “50-50’’ to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Knicks. Allen has missed the past three games with a recurring sore right ankle and Rivers said Allen tried basketball activities Saturday, but did not make the necessary progress.
“We thought there’d be a chance of him playing [Sunday] and he was checked out [Saturday] so he’s scratched for sure,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think it’s that serious. They are just trying to get the swelling down. If there was a playoff game, would he play? Yeah probably. We feel like if we can get all the swelling out, it will not return and so we’re going to try to take that approach.’’
Slow bus to Newark
The Celtics’ team bus took approximately 90 minutes to drive from their Manhattan hotel to Prudential Center and did not arrive until 6:30 p.m., an hour before game time. Some players rushed to the court to get in some pregame work while others dressed and remained in the locker room . . . Despite a sore left knee, Brandon Bass was in the starting lineup . . . New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was sitting courtside.