Just when it seemed like the Celtics' roster couldn't possibly be thinned any further, captain Paul Pierce sat out Wednesday's session due to illness and, while coach Doc Rivers expects him to play Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, it was the latest setback for a Boston squad suddenly desperate for healthy bodies.
On the more encouraging side, reserve guard Delonte West engaged in his first full-contact practice since fracturing his right wrist in mid-November and, despite lobbying Rivers and the training staff to let him play as early as Thursday, the team is still targeting a return later in the month.
"We don’t worry about body count," said Rivers. "[The Lakers are] not going to worry about the body count, I can guarantee you that. We’ll be ready, we’ll be fine."
But Rivers admitted that, after operating without a pure swingman Wednesday and dangerously thin at center, the team will be tested moving forward.
"Size will come into play at some point [Thursday], but, listen, we have what we have," said Rivers. "We’re going to line it up against whatever they have and see who wins the game."
While normally all the focus on the day before a Celtics-Lakers matchup would be on the rivalry, Boston seemed more concerned about its own backyard, almost resigned to the fact that the Lakers are simply the next team on the schedule (when a visit from, say, Cleveland might be more welcomed). But the Celtics also aren't feeling sorry for themselves and those players that are healthy promised to be ready for the matchup.
"We just gotta get it done," said Glen Davis. "Things happen, players get hurt. You gotta keep going. That's why you have 15 people on the roster."
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge reiterated that it will be another week before the team gets a better grasp on the prognosis of Daniels and admitted that leaves the team in a bind in the interim.
"I think we're thin [at the 3] now without Marquis and without Delonte," said Ainge. "If we had Delonte and Von to play, we'd be fine. But Delonte is back soon. He practiced full today, he's probably another two or three weeks away from playing in games. Some time after the break. But all the injuries, we feel like Jermaine and Shaq and Semih and Delonte will all be back the second half of the season and Marquis is up in the air."
--WEST RETURNS FOR FIRST FULL CONTACT SESSION--
Almost out of necessity, West engaged in full-contact drills for the first time since fracturing his right wrist in a cringe-worthy spill against the New Jersey Nets in mid-November. But West said he felt surprisingly good on the court and made a Kendrick Perkins-like effort with Rivers and the training staff to let him play as early as Thursday.
So far he's been rebuffed.
"Obviously, with Marquis going down and Paul out today, I had to get on out there, probably sooner than I expected," said West. "I definitely surprised myself. I was able to go full contact; I got down there, scrapped around with big guys. My conditioning was there, but my timing was a little off.
"I felt pretty good. If it was up to me, I'm confident in playing [Thursday]. But [coaches] said my timing was off and my familiarity with the plays wasn't 100 percent. I guess in a game like [Thursday], we need 'fo sho's' out there. I want to go [Thursday], I'm confident and I stressed that to the trainers, Ed Lacerte, and Doc, but I think they want to stick with the plan and get me a few more days of practice."
West said he'd like to return before the All-Star break if the coaches and medical staff will allow him.
--WITH ALLEN ON CUSP OF HISTORY, RIVERS HOPES IT'S QUICK--
Not surprisingly, Celtics guard Ray Allen drew a huge media horde Wednesday as he sits on the cusp of reaching (and eclipsing) Reggie Miller's career 3-point record. Count Rivers as one who's ready to get it out of the way.
"Yeah, let's get it over with," said Rivers. "My suggestion: Allow him to have two open ones early [against the Lakers]. Just get it over with. Or give him a game-winning wide-open one. I’ll take either option."
Rivers did admit it's tough to appreciate exactly what Allen is about to accomplish.
"It’s tough to appreciate stuff during it, it really is," said Rivers. "You can’t even think about the numbers or anything like that. I think someday, when you're sitting at home and looking at the numbers, then you’ll appreciate it. 'My goodness, who was guarding him? And how did they leave him open?' Because I remember many times [Hawks coach Mike] Fratello yelling at me about leaving Reggie Miller open, so I'm sure that’s happened to many coaches with Ray Allen."