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Leon’s knees

Late in the season, Leon Powe [1] made an appearance in the Celtics [2] locker room before a game and the subject was knees. “I know all about that,” Powe said then, exhibiting a sort of gallows humor.

The problem was the right knee, which he had strained in the St. Patrick’s Day game against the Bulls and would cause him to miss 12 games. The good thing, Powe was saying, was that it wasn’t the left knee. That was the one that almost screwed up his basketball career before it even got started.

As a high school player in Oakland, Powe was on the short list of every major college basketball [3] recruiter in the country. A McDonald’s All-American, his bio on the University of California’s website [4] explains that he is the most highly-regarded recruit ever to sign with then-coach Ben Braun (who became the Cal coach in the post-Jason Kidd era).

Powe injured his left knee in high school, but he still led the Pac-10 in rebounding as a freshman. That was when doctors discovered that he needed more surgery, two more surgeries in fact, which wiped out the following season. He returned as redshirt sophomore and had another monster year, but concerns about his knee caused him to drop to the second round of the 2006 draft where the Celtics stole him from Denver in a draft-day deal.

Considering his medical history, it has been a minor marvel that Powe has made it through his first three seasons in the NBA and been as productive as he’s been [5].

But now he has injured his left knee, the one that has caused him all the problems, and the Celtics are listing his status as questionable. With Kevin Garnett [6] already out, that puts the onus squarely on Kendrick Perkins [7], Big Baby Davis and Mikki Moore [8]. That’s it. That’s the big man rotation.

There is some hope that Brian Scalabrine [9] could return for Game 3, but that still seems like a question mark and it’s worth noting that Scal hasn’t played at all since Feb. 23.

“We don’t worry about who’s not out there,” Davis said Monday night, and he has a point. The Celtics have been playing shorthanded up front for the last month or so and have done an admirable, if imperfect, job. Without Garnett, the Celtics are not nearly the same rebounding juggernaut that they were, and without Powe they lose a low-post scoring threat off the bench.

Perkins was masterful on the low block Monday night, torching the Bulls for 16 points and 12 rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting. The Celtics are going to need more of that from Perkins, and they are going to need quality minutes from Moore, as well, who played less than a minute in the second half, Monday.

UPDATE: The Globe’s Marc Spears is reporting that Powe will have surgery and that he is out for the playoffs [10].