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Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Celtics' depth will be tested without Pierce

By Chris Forsberg

The Celtics do not appear inclined to make a reactionary move after learning captain Paul Pierce will be sidelined for two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic irrigation on his right knee Wednesday.

Instead, the team simply reached down to its NBA Development League affiliate and recalled second-year forward Bill Walker, who didn't make the trip to Orlando with the team Wednesday morning, but should join the club soon.

With Pierce expected to miss the team's entire four-game road trip, including a Christmas Day game against the Magic, Boston's depth will receive its stiffest challenge of the season. Boston played without Kevin Garnett (day-to-day, right hip bruise) on Tuesday night and looked disjointed early, but rallied from a 15-point deficit to top the Indiana Pacers.

The Celtics have leaned on their depth when injuries have arisen this season. When Glen Davis fractured his thumb two days before the season opener, Shelden Williams picked up some extra minutes off the bench. When Marquis Daniels underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb earlier this month, Tony Allen returned to the lineup and has exceeded expectations at both ends of the court.

The Celtics showed Tuesday that -- even when Garnett is out and Pierce struggles -- they have other players who are capable of shouldering the offensive load. Eddie House came off the bench to carry the offense in the second quarter before Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins kicked into high gear. In fact, Celtics coach Doc Rivers shortened his rotation without Garnett, holding Williams off the floor, despite the hole in the front court.

Expect the Celtics to lean heavily on Tony Allen, who logged a season-high 24:30 in Sunday's win over Minnesota. The loss of Pierce should also mean an uptick in playing time for other guards, including House. But it will be most interesting to see which young player -- rookie Lester Hudson or second-year players J.R. Giddens or Walker -- gets a chance to shine.

Both Walker and Hudson are coming off stints with the Red Claws, where they showed flashes of potential. Giddens always seems to ooze potential in practice and maybe it will translate if he gets some extended court time.

Of course, the question becomes whether the Celtics can afford to give significant minutes to young players considering the rigid schedule they are about to face (at Orlando, then three games out west). Boston's mantra has been to focus on the big picture rather than short-term gains, so maybe they roll the dice with the youngsters before simply shortening the rotation and putting more minutes on aging legs.

One positive to draw from the situation: The Celtics' lack of a big roster move may indicate they believe the injuries to Garnett and Pierce are not serious enough to warrant a drastic move.