Raef is No Pervis


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Raef LaFrentz can talk all he wants about how good his surgically repaired right knee feels. He can put all kinds of percentages on his recovery/comeback. He can liken his agility on the court to how it was before the operation.

But nothing makes the point more forcefully than his play itself. LaFrentz's recent performances indicate that the knee, if not as good as new, is good enough to make the power forward a strong contributor to the Celtics.

"It's definitely going up," said coach Doc Rivers. "I think he's more athletic right now, for whatever reason. He's starting to feel confident in his legs."

LaFrentz entered last night's game against Golden State coming off two straight double-doubles, and he almost got another one as he finished with 9 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors. Friday he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds against Toronto, then Sunday he recorded 15 points and 14 rebounds against Sacramento. All the while, he has moved fluidly up and down the court and around the basket, not to mention that before last night he was averaging 27.2 pain-free minutes per game.

"What Doc saw of me, until I got my legs under me, wasn't very athletic at all," said LaFrentz. "I was just trying to come back and run. I wasn't trying to be real athletic. I try to get up and down the floor and get some easy looks. Right now, my body feels pretty good.

"It's just opportunity. On this team, there's opportunity to be productive, to get the minutes, get the looks, and move around as a basketball player and be able to put up some decent numbers."

Schedule change?

The Celtics' original itinerary listed today as a day off from practice, a rest after a back-to-back set. But before the Celtics played the Warriors, Rivers raised the possibility of a limited practice, primarily for the younger players.

The reason? He believes the late-game letdowns may be related to poor game conditioning, especially for a rookie like Al Jefferson, whose 17 NBA games probably equaled an entire high school season.

"The tough part about conditioning is you want to condition and still win," said Rivers. "We need to practice in the worst way. When you're young, you see some slippage. I saw a ton of it in execution [against the Kings]. That's more the young guys. That's going to be all year with them. There's nothing you can do about that.

"But conditioning, when you want to be a ball-movement team, not just a running team, you have to be in great shape to be able to do that."

With 16 games in the 31 days of December, including 10 on the road, practice time could be a precious commodity.

"It's going to be a drag to practice, but I knew that coming into [December]," said Rivers. "But we're going to use shootarounds. We're going to use a lot of things to teach.

"I'm more worried about our young guys and focus and execution when you don't have practice. Al Jefferson probably played a game a week in Mississippi with those 5-foot-2-inch centers he was going up against. Now, he plays 16-17 games in a month."

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