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Injury situation comes into focus

01.02.10 at 11:04 pm ET
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The Celtics shed a little light on their developing injury situation Saturday night.

As expected, Rajon Rondo joined Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the sidelines. Doc Rivers said he was didn’t want his young point guard to make his tender hamstring worse, and after reviewing Rondo’s performance against Phoenix, Rivers said he was concerned that Rondo was trying to over-compensate for the injury. The decision to rest him was set in precautionary terms. “I think he wanted to play,” Rivers said before adding that trainer Eddie Lacerte makes the final call.

While Rondo sat, Pierce detailed his experiences last week, which involved a higher than expected white-cell count and an additional surgery to deal with fluid and an infection in his knee. (Go here for more details). If all goes well Pierce might practice Monday before the team heads to Miami to start a three-game road trip, but that’s far from certain. Rivers called it 50-50 and Pierce said he was “day-to-day.”

What is certain is that Rondo and Pierce are far more likely to rejoin the team before Garnett does. Since details of his hyper-extended knee have surfaced, Garnett has been pushed back from likely to miss the next two games, to possibly out for as much as 10 days from now. That could have Garnett out of the lineup for as many as five games, but even that is far from a hard target.

“I have no idea,” Rivers said. “I really don’t.”

If that sounds eerily familiar to last season, well, it is. The difference, perhaps, this time around is the Celtics may be better-equipped to deal with Garnett’s absence for an extended — and unknown –period of time this season.

For starters, the stakes are much obviously lower now than they were last season. The playoffs are nowhere in sight and the Celtics hot start has given them ample room for Garnett to take his time and heal properly.

The offseason addition of Rasheed Wallace also gives the Celtics a reasonable facsimile of Garnett’s production and Wallace played perhaps his best game of the season against the Raptors Saturday night. He worked effectively inside on the post and his timely outside shooting helped loosen up the Raptors interior defense, which frankly wasn’t all that tight to begin with.

“When Rasheed wants to be, he can be one of the best post players in the game,” said Kendrick Perkins, echoing what so many have said over the years. “But, when he comes to play and he’s focused, man, he’s great.”

The Celtics will need more performances like this from Wallace over the next few weeks, whose play can accurately be described as uneven through the first 32 games. “Rasheed shows you he can play almost every night,” Rivers said. “He doesn’t play well every night, but he’s getting better each game.”

The third factor with Garnett is that the Celtics have been through this once before. The veteran players are mature and grounded enough to know that it will take some time for Garnett to return and they are prepared to deal with his absence, no matter how long it lasts.

“With Kevin, the big thing is we just want to stay afloat and stay on top of the East until he gets back,” Perkins said. “We don’t want him to feel like he has to rush back.”

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