Da Glove Don't Fit: Guard Breaks Thumb


Results of X-rays on Gary Payton's right hand revealed a non-displaced fracture in the point guard's right thumb.

   Payton did not play last night against the Pistons and had the top of his thumb bandaged, but the Celtics expect him to play in the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at the FleetCenter. It could be his first action in more than a week, since coach Doc Rivers may keep him out of practice for the remainder of the preseason. The injury will be reevaluated on a daily basis.

"I'm just going to take it one day at a time," said Payton. "We'll just keep treating and hopefully it will get better. I don't want people to think that something's wrong with my hand and then go after it in a basketball game. It will heal the way it should heal. The pain has gone away."

Rivers speculated that Payton would need "some tape job" to stabilize the thumb when he returns to action. From his own experience, Rivers knows that passing can be particularly difficult with a thumb injury.

"Obviously, it will affect his play," said Rivers. "It's his right hand. He's going to have to have some contraption on it.

"He's one guy that you can least afford [to lose] right now. The way it was explained to me, they said they didn't think it would hinder his play at all. We'll see. Can he practice this week? We don't know that yet. It's just not the best situation to have right now, but it's not the end of world."

. . .

After dropping six straight exhibition games, the Celtics concluded the preseason with a 96-84 defeat of the defending champion Pistons. The victory provided a much-needed boost to Boston's spirits and confidence, especially considering it recorded the win despite committing 27 turnovers, and playing without Payton.

"We wanted to go into the season on a positive note," said Paul Pierce (11 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds). "We'd dropped six straight, so we wanted to go out and get a win just to gather some confidence within ourselves."

By holding Detroit to 38.3 percent shooting, the Celtics should have renewed confidence in their defense. By scoring 18 points on the break and generally setting a quick pace, the Celtics' running game appears back on track. Starting at point guard in place of Payton, Jiri Welsch led the team with 16 points. Ricky Davis and Tom Gugliotta added 12 points apiece.

. . .

The league fined Pierce $15,000 for spitting at the Cleveland bench Monday, according to an announcement by NBA senior vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson.

The incident occurred with 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Cavaliers' 95-88 victory in Columbus, Ohio. While Pierce never admitted he spat at the Cavaliers' bench and questioned whether anyone saw him do so, he never denied the act, either.

"That's the league," said Pierce, who might attempt to get the fine reduced. "They penalize you. There's nothing I can do about it. I can call the Players' Association and see what's going on. But that's just the league. I think it's kind of harsh."

Rivers was surprised by the hefty fine and believed the NBA wanted to send a message that players should be on their best behavior on the court. He did not see the incident, and received little explanation from Pierce. Rivers only heard that Pierce spat straight down at the floor, not toward or near the bench.

"I'm surprised that it was that high of a fine," said Rivers. "I think our league is working on trying to improve the image of our league. I think they're going to be very hard on anything that happens. And quite honestly, I don't disagree with that part of it. I do think we have, I don't know if it's an image problem, but we have to work on it. All of us, coaches have to be more professional, the players have to be more professional.

"The one thing I liked about Paul was that he was very honest. I think he talked to the league and was honest about whatever happened. I'm glad it's gone. It was a minor incident.

. . .

Celtics president and Chinese food lover Red Auerbach will be at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus today from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. to sign copies of his new book, "Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game." Co-author John Feinstein also will be at the signing. Auerbach attended the game last night . . . The Celtics greeted fans at the turnstiles wearing green Red Sox caps, after which they signed the caps and gave them away.

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