The Celtics lost a game to the Jazz in the early morning hours. (For a full recap of the 90-85 defeat in Utah, CLICK HERE.) They lost because they couldn’t figure out a way to score down the stretch and they couldn’t get a key rebound after dominating the boards for most of the night. Most of all they lost because Kevin Garnett was not on the floor.
Garnett came down awkwardly late in the first half favoring his right knee. Danny Ainge said on the TNT broadcast that it had been bothering him for the last few weeks. Garnett tried to warm up for the second half and apparently wanted to play, but Doc Rivers shut him down.
The team is calling it a “sprained right knee,” and there wasn’t much information available beyond that. Considering the circumstances, considering the opponent and the location, and considering the foul trouble that plagued just about everybody, it’s not surprising that the Celtics started the post All-Star break stretch with a loss.
But as they have shown on several occasions, the Celtics can weather storms like this. They went 9-2 last year without Garnett, and if not for a play or two here or there could have won last night. In the short run the Celtics can handle his absence. But, if Garnett’s injury is more than just a strain, or if it lingers throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs that’s another matter entirely
The obvious question is what is Ainge going to do with his two open roster spots? The absolute home run of home runs would be Joe Smith, who has apparently expressed an interest in being bought out and coming to Boston now that the trade to New Orleans fell though. (Quick digression: Oklahoma City will rue the day it held up the trade because of concern over Tyson Chandler’s toe. Maybe this is karma for the whole Seattle thing.)
The other name floating in the internet ether is Mikki Moore, an active big man who parlayed one above-average season with the Nets into a big payday from Sacramento. As is usually the case in such situations, it didn’t work out and Moore was released. Moore is younger, more athletic and more defensive-minded than Smith but he doesn’t possess anywhere near the offensive ability or experience that Smith could provide.
Expect Cleveland, which has more of the mid-level exception to bargain with than the Celtics, to make a play in either direction, if only to provide deterrence.
If the Celtics can get one of those two big men, which way do they go with the other spot? Another point guard? A swing man to replace Tony Allen? Another big man if the injury to Garnett is serious? Tough questions for Ainge to answer between now and March 1. But for now the biggest question is Garnett and the status of his knee.