Deron Williams eyes Tuesday return

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets, who have been decimated by injuries all season, are about to get their point guard back.

Deron Williams said he will "definitely" play Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. Small forward Paul Pierce, who said he thinks there's a "good chance" he'll return to the lineup to face his former team, now is listed as doubtful.

Williams has missed the last nine games -- and 11 overall this season -- due to a sprained left ankle, while Pierce has missed the last five games due to a fractured third metacarpal bone in his right hand. Both players practiced fully Monday.

"It's always good to get those guys back at practice. I thought they looked good," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "It excites myself but also excites the team, because we've been short-handed."

The Nets' regular starting lineup -- Williams, Pierce, center Brook Lopez, power forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Joe Johnson -- have played just 78 minutes together on the court all season. Brooklyn has lost 49 games due to injury split among six different players and has started seven different lineups.

Forward Andrei Kirilenko (16 games missed due to a back injury) and guard Jason Terry (nine games missed due to a knee injury) remain out indefinitely.

Williams originally hurt his ankle Nov. 15 in Phoenix, returned for two games and then re-injured it on Nov. 20 in Charlotte. He has not played since.

Pierce was initially supposed to miss two to four weeks. Monday marked 10 days since he hurt himself in the first quarter of the Houston game. On Tuesday, he initially was listed by the team as doubtful.

"It felt good to get back out there with the guys after about a week or so," said Pierce, who plans to go through shootaround Tuesday morning before making a decision on his status. "[There's] still some pain in the hand, but it's something that's tolerable.

"There's a good chance [I'll play tomorrow], but I'm not sure right now. Like I said, I feel good. I didn't really get tested. I'd like to get tested, as far as getting hit (contact). But I thought I shot the ball really well and got up and down well."

Pierce had to get two X-rays and an MRI before the injury was discovered.

"The pain is bearable now. I've been able to shoot the last three days," he said. "Before that, I probably couldn't catch the ball or palm the ball. There's still pain in the there, but I'll be able to deal with it."

Pierce plans on wearing something over his hand to protect it. He wore a "workman's glove with the fingers cut out" at practice Monday.

Pierce isn't concerned about further injuring himself.

"It's not like it's a ligament tear or a muscle tear. It's just a small displaced chip bone," he said. "It probably won't get any worse unless you just get hit similarly the same and kind of break it. But I really don't have any fear of that."

Pierce played with the second unit during practice and could come off the bench, something he hasn't done too often in his career. In 16 years, he has started 1,114 of the 1,117 career regular-season games in which he's he's played.

"If I have to sacrifice [my starting spot], I have to sacrifice for the betterment of this team, and I'm willing to do that," he said.

Kidd said it's a possibility, but hasn't really been discussed.

Pierce, 36, is averaging just 12.4 points and shooting 36.8 percent from the field -- including 26.8 percent from 3-point range. Williams, 29, is averaging just 9.3 points and 6.0 assists and shooting 40.5 percent from the field -- including 37.5 percent from 3-point range.