Timetable Unclear on Pierce’s Return
BOSTON - Even though he's quick to remind inquisitive reporters that "Doc" is just a nickname, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers seemingly begins every media interview session with an injury update, whether he likes it or not. He often notes that he hasn't asked the team's medical staff about injured players' return dates, figuring that if the staff isn't talking about certain guys, it means those guys aren't near returning.
But when it comes to Paui Pierce's return, well, suffice it to say that Rivers is very interested in when the Captain may potentially return to the lineup, and before Wednesday's heartbreaking 107-104 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Rivers mentioned January 19 as a possible best-case-scenario return date. Still, he made it clear that nothing was set in stone.
"Obviously, that's a little longer than we anticipated, and that's not a guaranteed date," Rivers said of Pierce's return, and he added that he wasn't even sure whether January 19 was the date Pierce would be ready to play or just to return to practice.
Pierce, who has missed the last six games since an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his left foot, is reportedly still wearing a boot on his ailing wheel "for another week" according to Rivers, but he is able to walk without crutches. The original estimate on Pierce's return was "2-3 weeks" when he first showed up at practice on crutches on December 21, the day after failing to get off a shot in traffic against the Golden State Warriors.
Rivers mentioned that Pierce would be around the team going forward and that he may even sit in on some coaching meetings just to keep the captain involved in what's going on with the team. Rivers later quipped, "Maybe he can break down some film."
Time On Allen's Side
For the first month of the season, Tony Allen couldn't seem to control himself in his limited time on the court. Not only was he was playing few minutes, but he was getting few touches and seemed to have very little confidence in himself and continued to make the same mistakes over again. If he wasn't bowling a defender over with a charge, he was dribbling the ball off his foot, then visibly chastising himself for his mistakes, at times even slapping himself on the forehead.
But when his minutes picked up in December, Allen started getting to the hole, getting to the line, and getting in the box score. Allen saw his minutes go from just over 12 MPG in November to a shade under 30 MPG in December. And his breakout game came in a career-high 48-minute, 30-point performance against the Denver Nuggets on December 15.
But while he says that increased playing time is a factor, Allen is attributing most of his recent success to a revamped mental approach to the game.
"At the beginning of the season, I was making a lot of bad decisions on going to the basket. I'd have shots, and I'd drive instead of taking shots. I'd have a drive, [and I] took a shot instead of a drive," said Allen. "Right now I'm just taking advantage of the defense. If I see a gap, I'll attack. If not, take it back out and pass. [I'm] just keeping it within the system and I think that's what's got me more under control."
While his outside shooting has dropped off this season, Allen has become adept at attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. He's starting to blow by defenders again, and once he does, opposing big men are stepping in and committing fouls as he gets near the rim. Allen is shooting a career-best 50% from the field and 78% from the free throw line.
Allen still doesn't think his knee is at 100%. He says that there are days when it feels great, but other times when he still has soreness in the joint. And while his increase in minutes has come in part due to the injury problems that have befallen Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak of late, Allen isn't concerned about potentially losing some PT to others when they eventually come back at full strength. In fact, Allen thinks it will help his game.
"I think about that all of the time, because when Paul gets back, he's another post player who will really open it up for me," said Allen. "[But] if they get healthy and the plan for me is just to pass out Gatorades, that's what I'll do. I know what I am capable of doing, and I just want to show with the opportunities that I get that I am a force out here."