Ron Mercer hopped out of the trainer's room last night, favoring his left ankle. He rolled the ankle in the first quarter "after coming down on somebody's foot. I'm not sure what happened."
And, unfortunately for Mercer and the Celtics, no one was sure of the guard's status last night. He had his ankle X-rayed following the Celtics' 111-79 win over the Magic. He then retired to a night of "ice, ice, and more ice" for the ankle. The Celtics should know more by this afternoon, when Mercer and the rest of his teammates are scheduled to practice at Brandeis.
"Here I am trying to get over one injury [ right knee] and I get this on my other leg," he said, shaking his head. After injuring himself, Mercer actually returned to the game and played 30 minutes. Included in those minutes were a terrific alley-oop from Dana Barros and several twisting layups. So it didn't appear that the injury affected him.
"But when I sat on the bench in the fourth quarter, I could feel it tightening up," he said. "It was starting to swell then." But, Mercer said, his ankle has not changed his view of tomorrow's game against the Knicks. "Oh," he said, "I'm going to try and play."
Missing in action
How would you like to be Danny Schayes and Dwayne Schintzius? Everyone in uniform played last night - everyone but them . . . A few players complained about the temperature of the FleetCenter. Penny Hardaway (0 points) said, "The problem was the gym was really cold. I couldn't get a handle on the ball. It felt like I was playing on ice." Kenny Anderson heard that and said, "I got here early, so I was warmed up. If you ask me, I didn't think [ Hardaway] was aggressive." . . . Hardaway said it was the first time he had ever been shut out in a game . . . Antoine Walker made 1 of 6 free throws. "If I could make some of those, then we'd really be on to something," he said.
Divisive talk dispelled
The rookie said he understands what many people are saying. But Paul Pierce said before last night's game that doesn't mean he agrees with them. By now, most fans know that the 6-foot-7-inch forward from Kansas leads the Celtics in scoring. He is also the early leader in FleetCenter ovations. Because of this, many have suggested that team captain Walker is jealous of all the attention Pierce is receiving. "That's crazy," Pierce said. "You know, Antoine has really been supportive of me. I don't think that at all. Those are the things you hear when the team is not doing good and you have a decent rookie coming in. People saying those things are just trying to get something started on this team. We all know what the truth is. We're losing and people are looking for things to say." That type of speculation intensified when Walker and Anderson got into an on-court argument in Washington Sunday. But Pierce said there is no lingering problem with anyone on the team. "Everybody gets along here," he said. "We hang out off the court, too." . . . Pitino said he wants to see the Celtics get in shape before he decides to make a trade for rebounding help. But most likely, he said, there will not be any major acquisitions until this summer. If the Celtics did anything this season, they would probably have to give up their first-round draft pick. Pitino said he has made calls to many teams to make "inquiries," not to "shop." . . . Orlando's Dominique Wilkins entered the game in the first quarter and got a balanced response of applause and boos. Wilkins, who played with the Celtics during the 1994-95 season, still has a home in Dover . . . How young are the Celtics? Well, consider that the Magic andCeltics have the same number of players on their roster (two) who played in Boston during the final season of Boston Garden. Wilkins and Derek Strong for the Magic; Pervis Ellison and Greg Minor for the Celtics . . . A few players were shocked to hear that Lakers coach Del Harris was fired last night. Pitino said, "Apparently they weren't happy with the way they were performing. When that happens, head coaches usually feel it." Pitino was reminded that coaches don't feel it when they also have the title of "president." . . . The team announced a program called "CelticsCommunity Corner." As part of the program, the Celtics will host 44 students from one of the 24 Boston public schools at every home game this season. Each student will receive transportation to the game, a T-shirt, hot dog, and soft drink.