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Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Kevin Garnett's turn to take seat

By Peter May
ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- As the curtains rose at the Boston Celtics' practice facility to offer the first public glimpse of the team on Valentine's Day, there was one notable absentee: Kevin Garnett.

And if Doc Rivers is correct, the Celtics will take the floor Wednesday night against Detroit without Garnett, a first for the 2011-12 season. He is the only Celtic to have played in all 27 games -- and he has been the most vocal about the need for practice. But he was MIA on Tuesday.

Rivers said Garnett sustained a small right hip flexor strain on Sunday against the Bulls and the medical advice from trainer Ed Lacerte was for two full days of rest. Tuesday was Day 2.

Nonetheless, with the underwhelming Pistons on the docket, and the menacing Bulls awaiting on Thursday in Chicago, Rivers said he has pretty much decided to give Garnett three full days to recover. He termed Garnett "doubtful" for the game while at the same time downplaying the severity of the injury.

Reggie Williams
The good news for the Celtics is that Jermaine O'Neal, who has sat out the last two games with knee and shoulder injuries, should be able to go against Detroit.

"It's nothing bad with Kevin,'' Rivers said. "But Eddie really suggested two days off and then [Tuesday] he said, 'Maybe three days off.' So we'll find that out Wednesday."

Also likely out for the Pistons game: Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus.

"Kevin has a 50/50 chance. He has the best of the three, but I would say maybe all are doubtful," Rivers said. "Unless they change, so we'll see."

If Garnett cannot go, that would mean the Celtics would unveil their 10th different starting lineup in just 28 games. That's one of the highest numbers in the league this season. In the first 27 games, only 11 have featured Rivers' preferred starting lineup of Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jermaine O'Neal, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. The Celtics are 6-5 in those games.

Asked if he was surprised at yet another injury in the season, Pierce said, "I anticipate it every year. What year do you have where there are no injuries? It's very rare you have a healthy team for a whole year. You have to anticipate there are going to be injuries. And where there are injuries, there are opportunities for other players to step up and have their chance."

Garnett may have been the unexpected -- not to mention marquee -- absentee Tuesday, but Pietrus also was a surprise. He missed much of the practice to receive treatment for his right knee. He had surgery on the knee before signing with the Celtics on Christmas Eve and has missed only one game, with a shoulder ailment, since making his Boston debut on Jan. 11.

Bass' absence was not unexpected. He may not return until after the All-Star break due to his sore right knee. He admitted Tuesday that he probably should have taken more time off when the knee first started to bother him. He missed the Feb. 5 game against Memphis when the knee swelled, but played in the next three games before shutting it down prior to the Bulls game.

The good news? Jermaine O'Neal, who has sat out the last two games with knee and shoulder injuries, indicated he'd be able to go against Detroit. He had one of his best games of the season against the Pistons on Dec. 30, the Celtics' home opener, with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 29 minutes.

The absence of Garnett was the undeniable shocker of the day. He was critical of the way the NBA jammed a 66-game season into four months and, after Sunday's victory over the Bulls, he voiced his concern over what he sees as a lack of quality play due to a lack of quality practice time.

"This is what I talk about [with] practice and how important practice is," Garnett said. "Throw the season together, without practice time, and this is the stuff you see. I'm not going to back off that. You want a quality product? You have to give time for that quality product to be quality. And you have to have time for that."

The Celtics haven't had the time, and neither has anyone else. This was Boston's first real practice since Jan. 25 in Orlando, almost three weeks ago. They went for 90 minutes.

"We did a lot, really, with what we had, honestly," Rivers said. "We worked on a lot of zone offense. On defense, we did a lot of small lineup, which, we may have no choice. And then we worked on some traditional stuff. It was only an hour and a half, but we got a lot of work in."

They may squeeze in one more session before a three-game trip prior to the All-Star break. It is what life has become in this lockout-shortened season. The coach debates between practice and rest, and, owing to the age of his team, often opts for the latter.

Asked how hard it is to coach a team in a season like this, Rivers went with the "ignorance is bliss" explanation.

"It's tough,'' he said, "but I don't think I'm the only one, so that helps. While it's difficult to figure out what you're going to do, I'll sleep well because I won't know what I'm going to do."

With Garnett and Bass unavailable, we might witness the first NBA start for rookie JaJuan Johnson. The kid played very well against the Bulls on Sunday, with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in 33 minutes.

"He's doing great,'' Rivers said of Johnson. "He's getting better. He is showing why I keep saying that he'll be a player in this league. He's just a good, solid kid, a kid you want on your team, even if he wasn't playing. But he's going to play and he's just going to keep getting better."

Longtime Celtics writer Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.