Mercer Sprains Knee

Mercer Sprains Knee

February 2, 1999

   WALTHAM - Rick Pitino said yesterday that he wants his players to be in good shape. He easily could have shortened that statement and said that he wants his players. Period. Many of them have been stricken by sore wrists and toes and

noses. Yesterday was Ron Mercer's turn; the shooting guard has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Pitino has said that only two of his players - Mercer and Dana Barros - are in the kind of shape that he wants them in. But now Barros may be the only player in Pitino Shape who is ready to play in the season opener Friday. Initially,

Pitino said that second-year shooting guard Mercer would be out "for a couple days." But an hour later, during a national teleconference, the coach indicated that Mercer could miss the first two games.

Mercer had a slight limp as he walked away from the practice site at Brandeis yesterday morning. The team had an open workout at Providence Civic Center last night, but Mercer did not participate. The lack of healthy players clearly is not easing Pitino's concerns about his team's conditioning.

"I don't like the fact that we can't have double sessions," the coach said. "I don't enjoy that. We're not teaching them enough of what they need to do to open up a season."

Why can't the Celtics get involved in twice-a-day practices? According to Pitino, the answer is quite simple.

"I love our attitude, but our conditioning is terrible," Pitino said. "Terrible. Everybody came in - with the exception of Dana and Ron - in poor shape. We can't go double sessions because they're not conditioned to do that. So we're behind the 8-ball as far as that is concerned. From a good standpoint, I don't think [ any of the other teams] are in good shape, either."

Pitino was asked to compare the conditioning of this year's group to last season's training camp.

"We were able to get through double sessions last year," he said. "We couldn't attempt double sessions right now."

If Mercer is out for the first couple games, the Celtics have several options. They can use rookie Paul Pierce at shooting guard and start Walter McCarty at small forward. Or they can replace Mercer with the men who usually back him up,

Bruce Bowen and Greg Minor. Both of those players, who have been treating respective wrist and ankle injuries, practiced yesterday. Pitino said Dwayne Schintzius, who broke his nose Saturday, may play in a couple days.

McCarty extended

Take a look at the current roster. Get familiar with the names. You'll be seeing most of these guys for a long time. That became even more obvious yesterday when the Celtics announced they were signing McCarty to a three-year extension.

"It's the perfect birthday present," said McCarty, who turned 25 yesterday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but beginning in the 1999-2000 season, McCarty most likely will be making twice as much as he will this season (about $1 million). The 6-foot-10-inch forward played in 82 games last season, started 64 of them, and averaged 9.6 points. He shot 40 percent from the field and made 74 percent of his free throws.

McCarty's signing solidifies a couple things. For one, Tom Heinsohn can continue to say how much he loves him. Also, the Celtics now have Kenny Anderson, Antoine Walker, Pierce, and McCarty under contract until at least 2003. Next up is Mercer, who becomes eligible for an extension this summer.

Stick around

Pitino's disappointment with conditioning could become a factor in the summer. By that time, the Celtics' new training facility here will be finished. So the coach will be looking for players who don't live in Boston to spend more time here.

"That's why we built the facility, to get everybody to make their home in Boston and work out," Pitino said. "And we're certainly going to encourage the players to do so."

Some players will stay; others have their own workout routines. Walker, for example, is a Chicagoan who likes to stay home and work out with other NBA players. And Anderson and Pierce spent last summer working out in Los Angeles.


FLCeltsFan said...

I just love reading through these articles. It's fun to relive the good old days (or in Pitino's case, the bad old days) Fun reads! Thsnks for posting them.

Lex said...

Thanks for reading them FCF!
Love your blog, too.

: )

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