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A players’ coach… 03.09.09 at 5:47 pm ET
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Doc Rivers quipped after practice on Monday that he just worked up his best sweat since his playing days.

The former NBA point guard wasn’t joking. He just finished running Stephon Marbury through a five-man ghost drill in which Rivers called out various plays, leaving Marbury to run an offense that included the likes of Mikki Moore, Leon Powe, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt.

With five players unavailable due to injury and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing 45 minutes apiece the day before, the Celtics were running on a skelton practice with barely enough bodies to make it worthwhile.

Now, while he’ll have the benefit of Pierce and Allen on Wednesday when the team plays next in Miami, Marbury will have to pick up his mastery of the offense if the Celtics are to find their way on offense and not fall behind by 20 like they did on Sunday in the first half against Orlando.

“Steph ran the set, but he didn’t know what to look for or who to look for and then he’s playing at half-speed, because you could feel him thinking out there on the floor,” Rivers said. “That killed him and it killed the team as well. So, it’s just going to take time. What I’m trying to get him to do is not to press or worry about it. The first thing I told him (Sunday) night was don’t worry about, it’s going to come together.”

Even though he was clearly not playing up to the potential that Danny Ainge saw when he signed him two weeks ago, Marbury was hardly crestfallen about his chances to improve. Instead, he exhibited the kind of confidence required from a point guard of a NBA title contender.

“Yeah, I’m definitely, getting it,” Marbury said. “Today was definitely helpful. As coach said today, learning what we want out of the offense as opposed to just running the sets. As a point guard, you normally know all of the plays, you know where to go and you know what everyone is going to do.”

With Rivers saying on Monday that he foresees Rajon Rondo out for at least the next couple of games with his sprained right ankle, this will be Marbury’s team. Marbury will have a golden opportunity to show that he can pick up the offense in time to be a force for the playoffs.

“For me, asserting myself in the lineups, I need to make sure the guys get the shots who are supposed to get the shots,” Marbury said.

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Celtics fighting injury bug… at 1:48 pm ET
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Please, no jokes about M*A*S*H or Doc Rivers activating himself to help out or how the trainer’s room is overcrowded.

Doc Rivers knows the deal right now.

The Celtics will not dress five players when they play the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in South Florida. Rajon Rondo and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis were ruled out of action by head coach Doc Rivers on Monday, both sustaining sprained right ankles over weekend. They join superstar Kevin Garnett (right knee sprain), Brian Scalabrine (post-concussion syndrome) and Tony Allen (left thumb) as injured Celtics on the sidelines.

“Baby and Rondo are out, I know that,” Rivers said. “They’re out for the next couple of games, maybe the next week. Kevin will be out longer than the Milwaukee game. I’m pretty sure of that. I would say Kevin, maybe at the end of the following week at the earliest.”

In addition Rivers said his challenge will be to not repeat what he did on Sunday when he had both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen play 45 minutes apiece.

“Somebody else has to step up and the challenge for me is not doing what I did (Sunday) with Paul and Ray, that can’t happen,” Rivers said. “Obviously, that was a different circumstance because the injuries happened during the game or right before the game. It’s tough to plan for but I still want to keep their minutes down, even in a time of crisis I want to keep their minutes down. We just have to find a way to win games.”

Rondo sprained his ankle on Friday against Cleveland and Davis injured his on Sunday in a loss against the Magic. Only 10 players dressed for Monday’s practice, with Ray Allen and Pierce getting excused after 30 minutes.

“This is a growth period for our basketball team,” Rivers said. “Clearly, we want to win the games but we have an opportunity to grow our team in this little stretch and get them closer together and get them all understanding how hard the work is going to be to win a title. In the long run, I think this might make us a better team.”

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