Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Celtics [Print without images]

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Pregame notes: Pierce, Perkins return

By Chris Forsberg

BOSTON -- A collection of pregame news and notes before the Boston Celtics host the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night at the TD Garden:

The rundown (a quick look at pregame headlines)
* Pierce, Perkins to play vs. Thunder
* Chance for bench to find rhythm
* Thunder's Durant on MVP chatter

Pierce, Perkins to play vs. Thunder



Celtics coach Doc Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte called him Wednesday morning to green light Paul Pierce (right shoulder stinger) for action against the Thunder, and both the captain and center Kendrick Perkins will return to the starting lineup Wednesday night.

"He's playing, so yes, he's going to go, he's fine," Rivers said when asked if Pierce was healthy enough to play. "Eddie just called me in the morning and said, 'Paul's ready.' I think [team physician] Dr. [Brian] McKeon looked at him and gave him the go-ahead. That's good.

"It's scary. Obviously, you don't know why he gets injured. I guess I could call [Patriots] coach [Bill] Belichick, because it's a football injury. We don't have a whole bunch of stingers in our league that I know of."

Pierce suffered his first stinger in Sunday's loss to the Spurs after being fouled by Manu Ginobili in the third quarter. Pierce admitted he was sore after the game, but after an offday Monday, practiced with the team Tuesday and looked fine before suffering the exact same injury off a back pick midway through the session.

Rivers noted after Tuesday's session that, at worst, Pierce would miss a game or two, but the medical staff stressed that the injury wasn't a separation, and clearly his condition is safe enough for him to return to action immediately.

The Celtics will have their regular starting five in place with the return of Perkins, who sat out the last two games after battling left knee tendinitis for the better part of the past two months.

Boston is 36-13 this season with their regulars in place and 121-38 since the Big Three united at the start of the 2007 campaign.

"Our starting lineup is pretty good when it's intact," said Rivers. "We like it when we have it."

Healthy starting 5 = Chance for bench to find rhythm

One of the benefits of having a healthy starting five is that Boston's bench will have the chance to find a much-needed rhythm. The recent spate of injuries has forced the team to pull guys like Rasheed Wallace into the starting lineup, hindering the ability for the reserves to get in sync as the playoffs near.

Boston's bench has been woefully inconsistent in recent weeks.

"It means our bench will be better," said Rivers. "Rasheed will go back to the bench and that gives us a post player."

The one downside is that a guy like Marquis Daniels misses out on a chance to start and maybe emerge from his recent struggles. Regardless of his role, Rivers indicated at Tuesday's practice that it's important for Boston to get Daniels going, particularly establishing him in the post moving forward.

Thunder's Durant on MVP chatter



Averaging a shade under 30 points per game -- and sitting fractions of a point behind league-leading LeBron James -- Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant admits he's heard the whispers about including him in the MVP conversation. It's a bit humbling to the third-year player.

"I haven't really thought about it, but a lot of people wish me good luck and I look at them like, 'What do you mean?' said Durant. "Every year there's going to be guys in the MVP race like Dwight Howard, LeBron, Kobe [Bryant], [Dwyane] Wade. I never envision myself in that category yet. Hopefully before it's all said and done, I can get up there with those guys. Right now I'm just trying to do my best to get this team to the playoffs."

So is the talk frustrating if it overshadows the team's success?

"No, it's pretty cool," Durant said to laughter. "For a kid like me, coming from where I came from, to grow up as a player and have people say I could be the MVP in the NBA, that's something I dreamed about. It's pretty cool, but it's not something I'm worried about."