LaFrentz is a Vital Cog

October 15, 2005

There was a time when the Celtics could not depend on Raef LaFrentz to contribute consistently - when his right knee often kept him from playing, and required reconstructive surgery.

Almost two years removed from the operation and a year removed from concern about how his knee would hold up, LaFrentz is one of the most dependable players in the Boston lineup. Coach Doc Rivers knows what to expect and what role he will play as starting center.

"Raef is so important to our team," said Rivers. "He does so many little things for our team that people don't know and don't understand. We need him to be there all the time." LaFrentz had 13 points and seven rebounds in last night's 107-100 exhibition victory over Toronto.

Last season, LaFrentz surprised everyone except himself by playing in 80 games. He missed a game against New York Dec. 22 with a mildly sprained left ankle. Then, with the No. 3 playoff seed secure, LaFrentz did not dress for the final regular-season game.

He hopes to be similarly durable this season, as one of the few veterans on a young team.

"It's kind of weird because it's only my eighth year in the league," said LaFrentz. "I'm only 29, yet I'm the old man on the team. We've got 19-year-old guys running around out here. I think 29 is in the prime of your career. I don't think I'm over the hill by any means. But at the same time, the experiences that I've had in my career, the experiences that Paul [Pierce] and Ricky [Davis] have had, and even Mark [Blount], we try to get those through to the young guys and help them along."

At the same time, LaFrentz knows the best way he can help is by leading by example and playing the way he did last year. He averaged 11.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 27.5 minutes per game last season. He hopes to improve upon those numbers, though the minutes will probably stay about the same.

"It's enjoyable playing for Doc," said LaFrentz. "I'm right on track. I think our whole team is right there. We've had a very good camp thus far, a very competitive camp. The first couple days are always a little rough. I try to get my legs under me. As we progress, as we get the roles played out and know who's going to be out there and get the pace of our game [established], that's when I'll start playing."

Change of plans at the point

Marcus Banks missed last night's game with a stress reaction in his left shin, changing the complexion of the competition at point guard. Rivers planned to start Banks tonight against the Bulls at the United Center, but now it's likely he will go with Delonte West again. Banks underwent X-rays yesterday in Boston and did not travel to Chicago. Tony Allen (right knee surgery) and Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) also did not make the trip.

"The shin has been hurting," said Rivers. "It was hurting last year a little bit. They did the MRIs right before training camp and he was fine. He actually practiced pretty well. I was going to start him [tonight in Chicago], but that's probably not going to happen. So, we've got to go with a contingency plan."

That contingency plan meant more minutes for rookies Orien Greene (18 minutes, 4 points) and Will Bynum (10 minutes) last night against the Raptors. And that could be a trend for the future. Greene relieved starter Dan Dickau in the first quarter, while Bynum made his preseason debut in the second.

"If it was something serious, that would mean they would play a lot more," said Rivers. "That would change our training camp. We would have to play both of those guys a lot. We would have to find out right away if they could play. That would change preseason completely for me. I would play them completely differently."

Backup (singers) need work

Pierce celebrated his birthday Thursday night at the Alley Cat, a new karaoke club he invested in with nightclub impresario Patrick Lyons. As part of the celebration, Pierce performed "Proud Mary," with Rivers, owner Steve Pagliuca, and assistant coaches Armand Hill and Tony Brown as backup singers. So, what did Pierce think of the ensemble? "They need work. We need to get back in the lab before we get back out." ... The biggest draw last night was Concord product and Raptor Matt Bonner. There were other familiar faces on the Toronto roster, including former Celtics Eric Williams and Mike James. UConn standout and Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva also took the floor ... During the second quarter, Lucky the mascot sustained a right ankle injury performing his dunk show. He is listed as day to day.RAEF LaFRENTZ

He does the little things

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