Pierce planning Wednesday return


WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce returned to the practice court Tuesday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint in Waltham, going through what he dubbed, "the meat and potatoes" of practice and expects to be in the starting lineup Wednesday night when Boston opens a three-game road trip in Miami.

Pierce, sidelined the past five games after a pair of procedures to drain fluid in his right knee after an infection was discovered last month, said he'll evaluate his status again Wednesday morning, but was preparing to play for the first time since Dec. 22.

"We'll see how it feels, but I got a good practice in today," said Pierce. "It's not 100 percent, but it's getting better.

"I'm about as confident as I'm going to be until it's 100 percent. I'm not feeling any pressure or pain when I push off on it because, as I said, it wasn't any ligament damage. It's just a matter of the swelling going down each day. We're down to the fact [of how far] I can bend it, and I have a lot more flexibility the past few days."

Pierce wore a black sleeve over the right knee and appeared to be moving well during the final moments of practice viewed by the media.

Pierce said the key would be getting his timing back on the floor, but joked that he hadn't been out that long and he saw "flashes" of his old self Tuesday.

The Celtics, ravaged by injuries including starters Kevin Garnett (hyperextended right knee), Rajon Rondo (sore left hamstring) and now Kendrick Perkins (flu-like symptoms), stand to get a boost if Pierce (and potentially Rondo) return Wednesday.

"Paul looked good, Rondo you couldn't tell because he didn't do much," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "So we'll see [Wednesday]. I think [Rondo's] going to go, but I wouldn't write that down in pen, for sure. Paul probably will [play Wednesday], that's what it looks like. So that would help us a lot. Just getting one of those guys back, I'd be happy. Both would be absolutely fantastic."

Pierce revealed Saturday that he had a previously undisclosed second procedure on his infected right knee, returning to the hospital on Christmas to have it drained again. Wearing large bandages over the injury, Pierce detailed how he was making strides in his recovery, but still couldn't bend the knee enough to enable a return to the court.

Even still, he expressed hope he might be able to practice with the team Monday. Still unable to go, Pierce got in a light workout, put up some jumpers, and received treatment while sitting out Monday's drills. Said associated head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was filling in for Rivers, "Paul was moving around, he did some shooting, things like that. He's feeling pretty good and improving day by day."

The 32-year-old Pierce is averaging 18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in 27 appearances. He hasn't played in the past five games, ever since the infection developed in the hours following a 103-94 triumph over the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 22.

As his teammates boarded a flight for Orlando and a Christmas showdown against the Magic, Pierce underwent the first of two surgical procedures to flush the knee. Swelling returned in the days following that first draining and he returned to the hospital on Christmas to have a second procedure.

The Celtics topped Orlando, but stumbled through a three-game losing streak out west.