New CBA Boosts Pitino's Rebuilding Program

February 7, 1999

New CBA Boosts Pitino's Rebuilding Program

   A rash of injuries has left Celtics coach Rick Pitino scanning the roster, looking for a player who could stabilize the starting lineup. At yesterday's shootaround, fifth-year guard Greg Minor was told he was Pitino's pick.

It's uncertain how long Minor will remain in the starting lineup. Pitino said it will take a while for Minor, who has battled bone spurs in his right ankle, to get into playing shape. But Minor, who said his ankles are 90-95 percent healthy, is ready for his opportunity.

"I think you always have to stay prepared because you never know what's going to happen," said the 6-foot-6-inch guard/forward, who has managed to stay with the team despite injuries and trade rumors.

"You know that guys are going get traded or injured, so as a player coming off the bench, you always have to be focused because you never know whwn your name will be called."

Minor started in place of Ron Mercer, who aggravated a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee in Friday's season opener against Toronto.

"I shouldn't have played him [ Friday] ," said Pitino. "We're really depleted right now, without our big people; we lose a lot without Ron Mercer.

"We have to get Greg in shape. He probably can't go for long."

And Minor will not be expected to fill the shoes of the explosive Mercer. But he can ensure that the Celtics get quality minutes at the position until Mercer returns. Last season, Minor averaged 5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 16.3 minutes.

"Given the fact that it is a shortened season, you have to be more in tune to when you're going to be called," said Minor. "Each game counts more so than others. The main thing is just focus on the little things, whether running the lanes, drawing charges, rebounding, scoring. You have to play each and every possession as if it is the last."

Minor is accustomed to stepping up on a team with injuries. He said the same scenario presented itself two seasons ago, when he started 15 games and averaged 9.6 points a game, tying his career best. His most starts (47) came in the 1995-96 season, when he also averaged 9.6 ppg.

As for being in playing shape, Minor agreed with Pitino's assessment. In fact, he did not play in the opener against Toronto or the second preseason game against the Raptors last week. Minor did play 9 minutes in the first preseason game and had 5 points on 1-for-4 shooting, with 2 rebounds and a turnover.

"I think game shape doesn't come from being on the treadmill," he said. "He's correct on that matter. The amount of time you spend on the floor [ is key] , so we'll see what happens then."

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