Rivers: Chris Wilcox ailment 'scary'

Updated: March 11, 2012, 9:57 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Sunday that the cardiac ailment that center Chris Wilcox is suffering from could be related to the aorta, similar to what Celtics forward Jeff Green dealt with earlier this season, and said Wilcox will undergo more tests next week to determine the severity of the condition.

A preseason physical detected an aortic aneurysm for Green, who underwent surgery in January at the Cleveland Clinic to repair the issue and will miss the entire season. Rivers was uncertain what the next step would be for Wilcox, but admitted he might be bound for the same facility with potentially the same outcome.

"There's not much I can say. They have a bunch of tests to run and it's what it is," Rivers said Sunday before the Celtics' game with the Lakers. "Obviously teamwise, it's a hell of a blow for us.

"It's not a great place. It's scary, it really is. You think about it, the chances of having one of these in a year, it's pretty minute. The chance of having two is like impossible. There's a chance that might happen. We just have to wait and see.

"But I always try to look at the human part of it. The fact that if something is wrong and we found it, I'd rather find it than not. At the end of the day, we're lucky, and that's what I told our team, that we're very lucky that this happened -- not unlucky. I think that's the way you have to look at it, and that's the way we're looking at it."

Celtics forward Brandon Bass said members of the team talked with Wilcox before departing on its eight-game road trip and offered an optimistic outlook.

"He seemed like he was in good spirits," Bass said. "I wish the best for him. I'm praying for him. He's a country boy, he's tough. He'll be all right."

Rivers said Wilcox was aware of a potential predisposition to a heart issue and had undergone monthly screenings in recent seasons to monitor for red flags. At one of those routine screenings this week, the tests came back with the troubling news.

"He's never had a condition," Rivers said. "I think we all have different things that you're a candidate for. I think he was maybe in that, but it was never a condition that was risky or anything like that. Unfortunately, now it may be."

While Rivers stressed the importance of Wilcox's well-being over all other issues, the loss impacts the team on the floor moving forward. Boston is already playing without Jermaine O'Neal, whose own future remains murky because of a wrist injury, and the team must decide how to add size with Thursday's trade deadline approaching.

For the moment, more responsibility will fall on rookie center Greg Stiemsma.

"(Stiemsma has) played well," Rivers said. "I jokingly say it, but I mean it, we play the whole team -- we don't just play seven or eight guys. Everyone has to be ready and Greg has done that. When his name has been called, he's come in and he's done his job. We're going to try to protect him as much as possible by playing him more with Kevin (Garnett), just to help him out on the floor. But without Chris or J.O., then he's going to have to play at times with different lineups -- with Brandon (Bass) even -- it is what we have. It's not like we have a lot of choices."

Rivers said the team was already hoping to add a big man given O'Neal's uncertain future, but Wilcox's condition will force the issue even more. The difficulty is adding a body when the team's roster is already at the 15-man limit.

"You don't want to do anything silly," Rivers said. "You really don't. We're building for this year and the future. And so we're not going to do anything that's going to hurt either one of those. Obviously, we're looking to grab a big from somewhere, hopefully not by giving away a player, but hopefully by going another route.

"With Chris' situation, the tough part about it is, we don't know if he's going to come back or not, and the deadline is coming up. So the quicker, obviously, we find that out, it does help us. We need another (big man), regardless, so we'll be out there. I don't think there's a bunch of teams lining up to help the Celtics."

Rivers said the D-League was one potential avenue if the team can clear a roster spot, but admitted there's not a lot of big talent available on the open market.

"Usually there's not a lot of bigs floating around the D-League, but we're going to look everywhere," Rivers said. "Wherever we can."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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