Pregame notes: Daniels (ankle) to play
BOSTON -- Celtics reserve swingman Marquis Daniels said the left ankle he sprained in Wednesday's win over the Detroit Pistons remains sore and a little swollen, but he planned to play in Friday's game against the Utah Jazz.
Daniels rolled the ankle after missing a driving layup early in the second quarter Wednesday. He sat out the final 34 minutes of action and did not participate in Thursday's practice. After plenty of ice and elevation, he deemed himself fit to play Friday and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he planned to utilize Daniels in his typical role.
"If he’s playing, he’s playing," said Rivers. "That’s always the way we look at it."
Daniels is one of only five Boston players to participate in all 41 games so far this season. For an oft-injured player during his career, it might mean a little more to Daniels to be on the court than most and it was unlikely a tweaked ankle would be enough to keep him out of uniform for the first time this season.
The Celtics, already playing without recuperating Kendrick Perkins (knee), Delonte West (wrist), and Jermaine O'Neal (knee), as well as rookie Avery Bradley (D-League assignment in Maine), have only 11 healthy bodies as it is, so Daniels was going to be active regardless of his ability to play, but it's a good sign for Boston that he's also available in that role.
Two prevalent themes before Friday's game: Al Jefferson's latest return to Boston and the Rajon Rondo-Deron Williams point guard showdown.
Rondo appeared locked in while watching Jazz game film in the Celtics' locker room, including tape of last year's meeting in Utah that Williams dominated. Rivers thought that might give his point guard a little motivation Friday.
"Look, I'm not in [the locker room], so I don't see what he's doing [during media access portion of pregame]," Rivers said of Rondo. "But he's human. Last year, we had a game here where Rondo was terrific. Then we had a game there where Deron Williams dominated our whole team. Everyone has a memory. And if not, we try to [jog] it a little bit."
Asked again to compare the Rondo-Williams matchup, Rivers said the key is really the other four guys on the court.
"They're so different, it's not a game of chicken, but it almost becomes that," said Rivers. "If we can get Rondo in the open court and turn it into a speed game, that's to our advantage. If they can get Deron in the open court and turn it into a power game, that's to their advantage. For both teams, it comes down to team defense. It really doesn't come down to those guys, it's up to the other four guys to take that other guy out of it. It's difficult for either one to keep the other in front of them."
Asked about the differences he's seen in Jefferson, Rivers deapanned: "He's older," before heaping praise on his former big man dealt to Minnesota as the centerpiece in the package that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston.
"I don't know, I don't watch Al as much now," said Rivers. "He's still growing as a player and he's one of the better post players in the league. We thought he would become that and he has. He's still improving defensively. The knee injury set him back a bit, but he's back to form now."
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said Jefferson's conditioning might have contributed to his slow start this season in Utah after being traded from Minnesota in the offseason.
"He wasn’t in as great of condition as we would have liked him to have been when he first came out," said Sloan. "That happens with a lot of guys, but conditioning gives you a chance to get off to really good start, so that probably hampered him a little bit early. He's worked hard to overcome that."
The 26-year-old Jefferson, now in his seventh season, is averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks over 35.3 minutes per game in 42 appearances this season.
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