Mercer's Knee Continues to Nag


 February 7, 1999

Mercer's Knee Continues to Nag

   Ron Mercer didn't have to worry about his knee brace last night. He didn't play against the Cavaliers, and coach Rick Pitino isn't sure when the Celtics' second-year guard will be back on the floor.

Neither is Mercer.

"I don't know," he said after a 77-73 victory over the Cavaliers. "It's going to take some time. There isn't much pain in the knee, but the doctors won't let me play without a brace. As soon as I feel confident enough to play without the brace, then I will. But I don't know when that will be."

Mercer wore a brace for the opener against Toronto and was visibly constricted. He played only 22 minutes and scored 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting. Pitino said last night that he shouldn't have played Mercer at all. Mercer will accompany the team tonight to Florida, although he's not expected to play against Orlando (tomorrow) or Miami (Tuesday).

Pitino said he won't allow Mercer to play until he is 100 percent confident and free of worry. "We're talking about the future here," the coach said. "I want to make sure he is healthy in his own mind."

Mercer has company in sick bay. Walter McCarty reinjured his toe against Toronto and is out for two to three weeks, Pitino said. Andrew DeClercq and Popeye Jones, however, could be ready for tomorrow night's game. Neither has yet to play, DeClercq because of a bad back and Jones a thigh bruise.

A show-stopper

Pitino lauded Bruce Bowen as the key to victory. Bowen scored 2 points but, according to the coach, was sensational on defense. Bowen ended up playing 42 minutes because of Mercer's absence, although Pitino elected to start Greg Minor because he thinks Minor needs the work . . . Eric Riley, meanwhile, went 40 minutes, which must be a career high. He shook off a slow start against Zydrunas Ilgauskas and played better as the game regressed. "I think we may have found something in him. I like what he does," Pitino said . . . Master P., the rap star/hoop wannabe, was at the game. His company, No Limit, represents both Mercer and Cleveland's Derek Anderson . . . The Celtics do not play again in the FleetCenter until Feb. 24. In the interim, they play six road games, go out West, and have six days free between games for practice, an incredible break given the compact schedule. They play tomorrow in Orlando and Tuesday in Miami, but Pitino is keeping the club in Miami until Friday. "We really had no training camp," he said. "We need to get away from everything and really work. I need to get these guys healthy, and practice double sessions, and work with the guys. And that environment [ Miami] will be very good for that."

He's dealing with it

So, Roy Rogers, can you envision a day when you tell your grandchildren that you were traded, even up, for Scottie Pippen? "I don't think too much of that trade," Rogers said. The former Celtic was traded from Houston for Pippen and was quickly released by the Bulls. The Cavs signed him Thursday, but he hasn't even been through a practice yet.

Cavs coach Mike Fratello shrugged when asked about the 6-foot-10-inch forward. "Until I see him, I don't know," he said. "But we felt it was worth taking a chance to look at someone who can rebound and block shots. We'll see. Then again, I don't know when we will be able to see because there isn't much practice time."

Rogers has been with six teams in three years, although he never played for two of them (Houston and Chicago). Asked about his time here last season - he was traded to Toronto in February - Rogers said, "If there is one place I regret being traded from, it's Boston. I was starting to learn the system and becoming a better player. I wanted to stay."

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