Notebook: Pierce Gets POW Award; Trip Tests Team’s Progress, Health

After a brief practice at the Sports Authority Training Center in Waltham, Doc Rivers had a brief announcement for his team in the customary end of session huddle.

"Quick announcement, guys." said Rivers. "Paul is the Player of the Week."

A quick cheer and some clapping from the guys, and it was over just like that. No ceremony. No plaques. No keys to a new car.

The reward? Just a few questions from a handful of reporters after practice.

"What do I get for it?" joked Pierce when asked about the achievement, his tenth career Player of the Week award. Pierce asked the same question after he missed out on February's Eastern Conference Player of the Month award, finishing behind Miami's Dwyane Wade.

"It felt good," said Pierce. "Being recognized for my efforts is always great."

It would be hard to overlook the week Pierce had, as he carried the Celtics to a 3-1 record, averaging 30.5 PPG on 52% shooting from the field. He notched the gamewinner in overtime to beat the Wizards Tuesday, dropped a triple-double on the Sixers at the Garden Wednesday, and then closed out the week with a 36-point effort Sunday night against the Nuggets.

Rivers was pleased to see his captain honored.

"He deserved that obviously," said Rivers. "He's playing great. He's done what we've asked him to do and then he's doing more. Obviously he's making shots, and that means things are going in your favor."

Pierce is in the midst of the best basketball of his career, and he said that despite the pressure of chasing a playoff spot, the team is enjoying the intensity and challenge of putting together a late-season run for the postseason.

"This is always the fun part of the year," said Pierce. "Fighting for playoff positioning, everybody's competitive juices are flowing. It's March now, we've got about four weeks left and this is when guys turn it up."

Pierce has certainly turned his play up, and he's caught up in the Celtics' race for a playoff spot. As of Monday afternoon, the Celtics are 3.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but Pierce feels that the team's record doesn't reveal how good the team really is.

"Our record really doesn't indicate what type of team we are. We lost so many close games. We could easily have a reversed record. The fans know that. They're knowledgeable," said Pierce. "We're in pretty much every game. It's exciting when every game you know you can win."

Trip Will Test Team's Health, Progress

Things seem to be coming together quite nicely for the Celtics, as they seem to have figure out how to win close games, and they're also starting to get healthy again. Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West both returned to the lineup Sunday night against Denver, and each chipped in nicely in the Celtics' victory.

A day after returning to the lineup, West was a bit sore and didn't really participate in a brief, light practice before the Celtics boarded a 4 p.m. flight for Memphis to kick off their four game road trip.

Doc Rivers said he wants to be careful bringing West along to make sure he doesn't have a setback, and it looks like he may be day-to-day for the rest of the regular season. How much West can practice is also in question, as he seems to need a day to recover after playing on his injured right groin.

"It seems to be that with a day's rest I'm back ready to go again, so we might stay with that strategy for the rest of the season," said West.

And as much as he'd like to have a completely healthy squad and a set rotation, Rivers has been around the NBA too long, both as a player and a coach, to expect an injury-free stretch run. He also knows that getting some guys back into the lineup just now will give him some tough decisions about playing time, but he's fine with that dilemma rather than being short on bodies like he was in February.

"It does affect us, obviously, but right now a lot of teams are banged up. It's that time of year. The teams who can fight through it have a good chance," said Rivers.

Odds and Sods

Ryan Gomes is getting more love in the NBA.com Rookie Rankings, and with good reason. Since the All-Star break, Gomes leads all rookies in rebounds and field goal percentage, and ranks second in scoring behind only New Orleans/Oklahoma City's Chris Paul....Kendrick Perkins said before Sunday's game that there's no lingering soreness in his shoulder specifically, but that his whole body is sore from hitting the weights hard while waiting to make his return to the lineup...Guard Dan Dickau was with the team last week and did a light cardio workout before Sunday's game. He is still walking with a very obvious limp, and has been out indefinitely since rupturing his right Achilles tendon on December 17, 2005 in Chicago.

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