Odds and Ends


PORTLAND, Ore. - Noticing a photo of Zach Randolph over his right shoulder during his pregame press conference last night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked, "That guy's good. I hope he doesn't play."

   Needless to say, the Celtics had no such luck when it came to the durable power forward.

"Amazing" was the word Rivers and Portland coach Maurice Cheeks used to describe Randolph. What else can you say about a player who entered last night averaging 21.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, who plans to add All-Star honors to his 2003-04 Most Improved Player Award, and who hopes to lead his team into the playoffs.

"He's an amazing player," said Cheeks, and that was before Randolph collected 22 points and 17 rebounds in the Blazers' 89-87 win last night. "With his ability to compete, he's gotten better every day. From last year to this year, it's just kind of a carryover, getting a little better every time. Every night he goes out on the floor, you know he's going to score. But his rebounding is amazing. He's got to get better running the floor on the defensive end. But as a competitor, I think he's one of the most competitive guys in the league right now, and he's only 23 years old."

Added Rivers: "He's a hell of a player. He's an amazing post player. He has great footwork, great quickness. He's now making that little 15-, 20-foot jump shot, which makes him even more dangerous. He's a load."

Randolph, who was selected 19th overall in the 2000 draft, appreciates the praise, but he might be the last to call his development "amazing." He said it was simply "a natural progression." That progress has been easier with Randolph keeping his weight down. Cheeks believes if Randolph can keep his weight around 255 pounds he is "one of the best players around." That said, Randolph prefers to keep his focus on rebounding and winning.

"I just want to make the playoffs and go as far as we can in the playoffs," said Randolph. "I want to make everybody around me better. I'd like to be an All-Star and average a double-double. I've just got to go out there, play hard, and be aggressive, especially on rebounding. The rebounding is just getting in position, trying to read where the ball comes off."

Nose for action

After inhaling a nasal decongestant about 45 minutes before game time, Paul Pierce pronounced himself ready for the Trail Blazers. When asked how he felt, Pierce said, "A little sick, but I'm good to go."

Given his record of competing through injuries and illness, he wondered how anyone could doubt he would play. Still, only five minutes earlier, Rivers remained uncertain about Pierce's status. If Pierce had been unable to play, Ricky Davis would have started.

Pierce played 35 minutes but struggled, shooting only 3 for 13 from the floor and finishing with 6 points. He missed all five 3-point attempts.

Pierce showed up for practice Wednesday with a 104-degree fever. Rivers promptly excused him from the workout. The captain missed shootaround yesterday morning and spent the day resting in his hotel room and drinking lots of fluids.

Job well done

Having lost the first meeting this season at the buzzer, Cheeks had a natural appreciation for the job being done by Rivers. "Doc's done a great job putting the team together and getting them in position to win games because they've lost some close games," said Cheeks, before his team won on a shot at the buzzer. "It's not like they've been out of games, really. That's what you like to do, just put them in position to win."

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