DNP-CD. That was Mark Blount's fate Friday night, a surprising one given that he had started the first 11 games of the season and had no inclination that Game No. 12 was going to be any different. But he lost his starting job to Kendrick Perkins and never took off his sweats the rest of the night.
Until yesterday, Blount elected not to talk about the Did Not Play-Coach's Decision. But after practice, he responded to questions, admitting that he still would like an explanation for what transpired because coach Doc Rivers hasn't given him one.
"Anything you gotta say, call me, let me know what's up, that's it," said Blount. "Tell me what's going on. I would like to know, too, because no one has said nothing to me." Asked specifically if he had been told in advance of the Friday personnel decision, Blount said, "There was no explanation. I didn't know."
If the 7-foot center is planning to hear an explanation from Rivers, he may be in for a long wait. Rivers yesterday said he had nothing on his calendar saying "Chat with Mark Blount" and reaffirmed his commitment to Perkins, at least for tonight's game against the Orlando Magic.
"We're not going to have any meeting," Rivers said. "You earn your time on the floor. That's how we'll do it. When that happens, then he'll play. He played hard [yesterday], which was a good start.
"When [a benching] happens to anybody, I think, emotionally, it sets you back a bit," the coach continued. "[Yesterday], Mark was back to being the normal Mark again. And that's good."
Blount supposedly had been rehabilitated after his disastrous finish last season, when Rivers benched him for each of the last three playoff games against Indiana. He responded with a strong training camp, won the starting center job, and announced last year was, well, last year.
This year, he probably sealed his fate when he complained about not getting enough touches on the team's recent swoon through Cleveland and Atlanta. (He had made a similar lament after a loss to the Spurs, which Rivers dismissed as "Mark being Mark.") After the loss to the then-winless Hawks, Rivers said anyone requesting touches might go out and get a rebound, but he did not mention Blount by name. Still, the inference was clear, as Blount had one rebound in 25 minutes. The previous night, he had 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 34 minutes against the Cavaliers.
"I'm here," Blount said matter-of-factly yesterday. "I don't know how to be scared. I don't know how to hide. I'm here. Whatever you want to know, whatever you want to tell me, I'm a real man, say what you have to say. That's it."
What it is, at least for the next game, is Perkins starting against the Magic. Perkins is active, energetic, but also foul-prone and not exactly Wilt Chamberlain around the basket. But he is physical and Rivers likes that part of the kid's game.
"I like the presence that he brings," Rivers said.
As for Blount, he turns 30 Wednesday, the same night Chris Webber, Allen Iverson, and the Sixers come to town. Blount said if the Celtics tell him they're going with Perkins and youth, he would have no choice but to visit with his agent, Mark Bartelstein, and see what's up. Blount still has this year and four more remaining on a $38.6 million contract he signed last summer, a deal that also contains a 15 percent trade kicker.
"They pay me to do my job," Blount said. "If I don't play, what do you want me to do? I came in [yesterday], practiced. That's all I can do. That's all I can say. I don't know how to be scared by anybody. I don't know how to run from nobody. I'm from the old school, old school New York guys. Just keep hammerin' the nails in, baby."
Point guard Delonte West, who has missed the last two games with a bruised left hip, went through most of the workout and expects to be back in the starting lineup tonight. "I actually took a charge," West exulted. "I'm proud of that." West said his hip still isn't 100 percent, but he feels he can play at less than 100 percent. Said Rivers, "He stayed in 85 percent of the practice, full tilt; he never came out. I think he's pretty much healthy." . . . West said he hoped to hook up with his running mate at Saint Joseph's, Jameer Nelson, while the Magic are in town. But don't expect any brotherhood once the game starts. "Right now, at this point, we'll be enemies," West said. And if the two catch a meal, "I might put a little extra pepper on his food, you know what I mean?" . . . Rivers is 3-0 against his former team, winning all three meetings last season by an average of more than 15 points. The Celtics have won four straight from the Magic, six of the last seven, and have won the last eight meetings in Boston, dating to Dec. 30, 2000, when Orlando beat the Celtics, 95-90. That loss was the first of five straight that eventually forced the doomed Rick Pitino to resign. Orlando arrives having won three straight, all at home, and with a 2-2 road record (0-2 against Eastern Conference teams) . . . Orlando is holding opponents to 88.5 points a game, which as of yesterday ranked as the stingiest defense in the NBA. That's a remarkable turnaround. Last year, the sieve-like Magic allowed 101.8 points a game, 28th in the league . . . Rivers said he's a little concerned about swelling in Tony Allen's surgically repaired right knee. Allen is scheduled to join the team in full-contact practice tomorrow, but he has been working out and doing after-practice shooting for a while. Apparently, Rivers said, Allen felt swelling in the knee Friday and still was able to do a little yesterday. "The swelling thing was the disappointing part," Rivers said. "[Yesterday], he was really sore. I don't know if it was swelling or soreness, but either one we were not hoping for. I think in that area, he'll have pain issues for the rest of his life, so we'll see how he manages it."