C's Suit Up Bare Minimum

April 7, 2007

Eight is just enough

More injuries push C's to bare minimum

The Celtics, league leaders in playing time lost to injury at one point this season, have reached the stage where booking MRI exams may be cheaper as a package deal.

This week it was Paul Pierce (left elbow and left foot) and Al Jefferson (right ankle) who visited the doctor's office.

None of the tests produced alarming results.

Pierce, who will join the team for a two-game road trip starting tonight in Indianapolis against the Pacers, received good news about the stress reaction in his foot that forced him to miss 24 straight games earlier this year.

``The foot is good - it's healed,'' Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said before last night's game against Miami at TD Banknorth Garden. ``The foot is structurally good. And I understand that there's no serious damage to his elbow, though it still swells up.

``My understanding is that Paul is going on this trip to get some practice time in, so he can evaluate himself.''

But practice is where the line likely will be drawn. Pierce is not expected to play against the Pacers tonight or at Atlanta Tuesday.

Jefferson, meanwhile, didn't have a test done on the knee bruise that kept him out of last night's game but did have one done on his surgically repaired right ankle, which has been bothering him since the All-Star break.

The pain obviously hasn't hindered his performance; the big man has been on fire the last six weeks. But in the name of caution, he sat out his second straight game last night and did not join the team on its flight to Indianapolis afterward. ``They said the MRI was good,'' Jefferson said. ``But I'm just taking it day-by-day right now. We're just going to sit back this weekend and see how it responds.''

For the first time, Jefferson expressed uncertainty on whether he'd return this season. After last night, only seven games remain.

``I'd love to come back and get a couple of games in,'' he said. ``But right now health is most important.''

Considering the Celtics hold the worst record (23-51) in the Eastern Conference and second worst in the league, there also is the matter of unnecessary risk.

``Kevin McHale played on a broken foot because it was the playoffs, and he's still paying for that,'' Ainge said. ``So you have to be careful. It doesn't make a lot of sense to take risks with the players we have right now.''

The result: With Delonte West missing last night's game after spraining his ankle in the third quarter of Wednesday's loss in Milwaukee, the Celtics dressed a league-minimum eight against the defending NBA champs.

Ainge said the team, which received a league waiver to sign Kevinn Pinkney to a 10-day contract Wednesday, will not sign another player to a 10-day deal.

``One thing you can say is that we've been very consistent with our injuries this year,'' said coach Doc Rivers, who added that West may miss tonight's game as well. ``I laugh about it because you need to laugh sometimes.''

Especially now.

``It's very much like (training) camp right now,'' Rivers said of the quality of play. ``Where it really hurts you is in practice, when we end up going four-on-four a lot of times.''

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