Chris Wilcox is gaining momentum
|01.28.12 at 1:41 am ET|
The numbers didn’t jump off the page for Chris Wilcox on Thursday night in Orlando. In nearly 19 minutes of action, he only scored four points and collected one rebound during the Celtics comeback win over the Magic. But it was the type of performance coach Doc Rivers felt was critical to getting his injury-riddled big man some much-needed momentum going forward.
“He was great,” Rivers said. “I thought he was one of the unsung heroes from [Thursday] night. He’s figured out that he’s not going to beat anybody with height so he plays his defense before the guys gets the ball. I thought he had four or five deflections on Dwight [Howard], and before he could get the ball up [Wilcox] already had his hands on the ball.”
Wilcox figured out more than how to play good defense. Friday against the Pacers he started to find his offensive game as well, scoring a season-high 14 points in 22 productive minutes off the bench.
“Last night got me a little more comfortable,” said Wilcox. “Tonight, I just wanted to play hard. I was a little winded but it was a good one.”
Contributions from the nine-year veteran were vital to a win as the Celtics were playing a second night of a back-to-back, and missing Jermaine O’Neal from the lineup. Wilcox didn’t disappoint.
He came out aggressive, hitting all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter while the Celtics jumped out to an early lead. At halftime Wilcox was the only player in double digits for either team.
“It definitely builds my confidence up more,” said Wilcox. “I got off to a slow start [this season]. Injuries held me back, and now I’m starting to get into a rhythm.”
Wilcox’s health is coming around at the right time for Boston. His slow start is attributable to signing with the team late in training camp, and missing half the games this season because of a calf injury. Now that the 6-foot-10 forward is healthy again, the Celtics can finally utilize his versatility.
“He’s huge for us, because he can guard the center position and power forward position,” said Paul Pierce. “He’s a very physical player and he’s a great finisher down low, so he’s going to be a big key for us moving forward as far as our depth at the big man position, especially with Jermaine O’Neal being out.”
It won’t come overnight. Wilcox – as are so many other NBA players – is still trying to find his legs and get in game shape. “If he could play with an oxygen tank, he’d be phenomenal,” joked Rivers. “He’s absolutely dying out there. But he’s still giving us the time and he’s doing everything for us, which is terrific.”
The Celtics hope there are more nights like Friday for Wilcox while he works himself into ideal shape. For now he’s just happy the Celtics are back to their winning ways.
“I’m definitely starting feel like I’m getting back,” said Wilcox. “I’m a little sore, but at the same time we’re all grinding. We’re all sore right now. So we’re all working together and good things are happening.”