Celtics captain Paul Pierce will come off the bench tonight for the Celtics. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Pierce would be limited to 15-20 minutes off the bench. Pierce has not played since Dec. 20.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Pierce. “The foot’s feeling good which is the main concern. I got the elbow stuff out of the way. That’s the least of my worries.”
Pierce said he probably infected his left elbow when cut a sore on the elbow a few weeks ago. Doctors cut open the infection, but Pierce said it sounded a lot worse than it really was. He spent two nights at New England Baptist Hospital so doctors could be sure the infection had cleared.
“My heart isn’t always going to tell me the same things as my body,” he said. “This is a situation where I have to listen to my body.”
The captain said it has been hard for him to watch his team build to a franchise-record losing streak.
“We’re on a 16-game losing streak,” he said. “These guys have learned a lot from it. Hopefully it can come to an end tonight. We have to do some soul searching. Everybody has to understand the level of play we have to play at to get off this skid. I don’t know if guys are settling or what their mindset is. It’s easy to get caught in the mindset where you can get used to losing. I don’t want them to have that type of mindset. It’s not acceptable being a Boston Celtic.”
“To me it’s how bad it hurts. At this point I’m surprised I haven’t seen a fight right now. To go through this kind of losing streak. You have to be out there playing with a certain rage I think, a certain kind of desperation. Maybe harder fouls. You should be angry at this point. The last few games should be their opponents’ toughest games, and I haven’t seen that.”
How does it feel to watch the losing streak from afar?
“It’s like watching your little brother out there in a fight, said Pierce. “And you’re helpless because you can’t help them.”
Pierce said he didn’t know what to expect tonight.
“I just want to provide some leadership on the court,” he said. “Maybe in the execution, help us finish games a little better than we have.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game he was not sure how Pierce would play when he returned.
“How well he’ll play and all that, I don’t think anybody knows,” said Rivers. “I don’t know who’s sat out a month and had one practice and done a lot. But the fact that he wants to play is great. I think it’s great leadership for all of our young guys to see. That he’s willing to take a chance and go out and play – it’s got nothing to do with health – but that he’s willing to take a chance and not care about how he looks, I think it’s a great message for all our guys. So I’m really happy with it.”
Pierce will be under a minute restriction of 15-20 minutes, but the team will not restrict his in-a-row minutes.
“Early on they were saying no more than three minutes in a row,” said Rivers. “I was thinking by the time he got his sweats off it would be time to come out. So, that wouldn’t work. So at least this way it’s a little better.”
Rivers was asked when Pierce was likely to see his minutes.
“I’d be tempted to have him in at the end of the game that’s for sure,” he said. “We don’t know how he’s going to play. I think clearly I will save some minutes. And if I happen to go over then I might just happen to go over.”
“I don’t have any expectations. I know he can still shoot. I know the fact that he’s on the floor they’re going to go guard him. Whether he can make them right now or not they’re going to guard him because that’s who he is. Those are positive things. I still think conditioning is going to be the biggest issue tonight. Going through a shootaround and going through an NBA game is two different speeds, different adrenaline. So that will be an issue for him.”
Rivers was happy that Pierce made the decision to come back.
“I think as much as all of our young guys want to play more minutes, I think this stretch has shown them they still have some work to do,” he said. “They’re not ready to be Paul Pierce. I think that’s clear.”
Here are tonight’s starting lineups: