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BOSTON -- Typical Mickael Pietrus, he never wants to stick to the script.
Recovering from a Grade 3 concussion suffered last month in Philadelphia, Pietrus wasn't supposed to be back on the floor until the final days of the regular season. Instead, he was a surprise addition to the active roster Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
Before the game, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he'd only lean on Pietrus for 5 to 10 minutes, just long enough to knock off some rust. But Pietrus ended up going nearly 30 minutes, chipping in 8 points and 6 rebounds in Boston's 88-86 overtime triumph at TD Garden.
|Mickael Pietrus contributed eight points, six rebounds and an emotional lift to the Celtics.|
"I feel good, extremely good," Pietrus gushed after the win. "No more concussion, it's behind me now."
Pietrus was an absolute ball of energy before, during and after Wednesday's game. From popping his jersey and slapping hands with front-row fans after hitting a clutch fourth-quarter 3-pointer to a crazy on-court postgame interview, it was clear how excited Pietrus was to be back in action. His energy permeated a Celtics' roster on the heels of a back-to-back in Miami.
"It felt good to have Mickael back," Kevin Garnett said. "You see him in here joking, looking like the old Mickael, like nothing ever happened. He brought energy, not only to the locker room, but to the floor."
Pietrus managed to keep his return a secret until Rivers revealed it during his pregame session with the media. In his first group interview since the injury, Pietrus generally kept the tone light. Yet it was the moments in which he turned serious that revealed why he was so excited to be back on the floor.
Like when a reporter asked what the next step in his recovery is.
"My next step is to enjoy life," he said. "Life is too short. You saw me on the floor [in Philadelphia], like one minute I was healthy, the next minute I was laid down. To me, right now, it's just enjoy life. I don't think about anything else. Just enjoy my time with my teammates. Just enjoy my time."
When he crashed to the floor in Philadelphia, basketball was the furthest thing from his mind. Pietrus doesn't remember everything from that night, but he does recall thinking about his kids -- his 5-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter -- and what it would mean if their father was hurt worse than he ultimately was.
"That could have been a different story for me," Pietrus said.
But every time Pietrus turned serious, he quickly steered the conversation in a light-hearted direction, likely seeing little sense in lamenting his situation when he could focus on the positives. And he often joked about his condition.
"I don't know if you've had a concussion before, it's tough because concussions suck," he cracked. "I would rather get a sprained ankle. A concussion sucks. You can't do nothing."
And nothing is what Pietrus did for the better part of two weeks. Initial tests determined that he had escaped serious injury and Pietrus was able to fly home to Boston the day after the incident, but could do nothing but try to rest his mind.
"I was laid up for two weeks, I couldn't do much," Pietrus said. "I was trying to rest my brain. I could not watch TV, I could not do anything. It's not like an injury that you hurt your knee or your ankle -- it's your brain, so you have to get your brain right. That's basically your life."
The concussion left him with extreme light sensitivity. Eight days after the injury, he visited his teammates at TD Garden and, despite his coach's best efforts to get him back home and into bed, he stayed to watch a 91-72 thrashing of the Miami Heat while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and oversized sunglasses.
Pietrus was back in the building three days later, already looking better and having shed the light protection as he joked with friends in the Spurs locker room after Boston's 87-86 loss.
Soon after, he had passed the first baseline concussion test, paving the way for his expedited return.
Even Pietrus didn't know he'd be back on the floor this quickly. After the Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, he suggested it might be another two weeks before he was able to return. Turns out he overestimated -- by about 11 days.
As Rivers said before Wednesday's game, "I didn't expect to see him, maybe this year... I'm very surprised."
Pietrus soaked in a standing ovation when he first checked in to Wednesday's game. He logged 9:22 in his first stint and made the first shot he put up, showing no signs of anticipated rust.
In fact, he looked so good, team trainer Ed Lacerte told Rivers to feel free to go over the planned minutes.
"You know it's funny, Danny [Ainge] called me today and said they worked him out [Tuesday] and he said [Pietrus] was tired after two minutes," Rivers said. "So we went in thinking four, five minutes really. That game was to get him ready for the games coming up. Going into it, that was our plan. And you could see pretty much right away, I was going to take him out after about three minutes and Eddie said, 'He looks great. Let him go, let him go. He'll tell you when he's tired.'
"What's amazing is he actually never looked over and said he was ever tired. Maybe he's been working out on the side and we never knew it."
Nope, typical Pietrus. If you expect one thing, you'll get another. He keeps you on your toes.
Near the end of his pregame session with reporters, Pietrus noticed that two tape recorders in front of him were identical. He joked that the reporters must have scored a buy-one-get-one-free deal, then busted one of the scribes' chops, suggesting that the other one had sold him the freebie without his knowledge.
"You bought one and got one free, then he charged you a higher price," Pietrus joked, eliciting laughter from the media crowd. "He got you though. He got that one for free and he charged you $50."
With that, he thanked reporters and headed off to the trainer's room to confirm his playing status. But the last exchange should have confirmed what the media didn't realize at that point.
Pietrus was back. And he hadn't changed a bit.