West and Szczerbiak Targeting Friday Returns
WALTHAM - If all goes well Thursday, a good portion of the Celtics' cavalry is coming back Friday.
Delonte West (back) and Wally Szczerbiak (ankle) are both looking to return to the lineup on Friday against Sacramento after West ran through a full practice in Waltham today, while Szczerbiak sat out but spent the afternoon working on cardio. Brian Scalabrine (knee) also sat out practice, and while he was shooting around afterward, he's not expected to be ready for Friday.
Coach Doc Rivers expects to at least have West back in the mix against the Kings, saying that despite some expected rust, West looked great. Now the challenge is getting West up to speed on some of the new wrinkles that have been added to the offense to accommodate the healthy personnel that is on the floor.
"We've got to go over some stuff, because we've changed some stuff without Tony and Paul," said Rivers. "Some of the things don't fit right now. We're a post team and a pick and roll team now."
West, who's dealt with back issues for most of the season, took a few hard falls before sitting out the last four games with a bruised lower back but he says he's good to go. And despite the falls, he won't be changing his break-neck approach to basketball, which has at times put him at greater risk to injury when he's elevated to make a block or had his legs taken out from beneath him on a drive to the hole.
"That's just how I go. If I see a play that I can make, I'm going to try to make the play. I like taking big shots," said West, who last played 36 minutes on January 7 in Orlando. "I do like the pressure and I also like coming up with the big save, or the big block."
As for taking some contact to see if his back would hold up, West said he got plenty of that in today's practice and he's holding up fine.
"I banged into Olowokandi a couple of times, that's a challenge within itself. You're for sure going to get beat up." said West who proclaimed himself 100% healthy. "It's where I thought it would be. I'm excited."
Wally Waits It Out
Despite getting some shooting in after the practice, Szczerbiak didn't participate in any other basketball activities Wednesday, and will wait until Thursday to give it a go for real in the hopes that he'll be able to take the floor again Friday.
"I'm getting close. I ran the treadmill today, but no practice yet. We're going to see how it goes tomorrow. If it looks good and doesn't swell up tomorrow, then I'm just day-to-day," said Szczerbiak after playing a round of free throw golf against Ryan Gomes, Brian Scalabrine and Director of Player Development Mike Crotty. "We're going to make sure that I'm completely healthy."
Szczerbiak, who's missed time with sprains to both ankles and some swelling in his knee, says he's been working hard with Walter Norton Jr. while he's been out, and joked that he'd been losing weight and getting "skinnier" while he's been out because of the intensity of the workouts.
As for accelerating his comeback schedule in the past, Szczerbiak admitted that he may have come back a bit prematurely the last time and it only ended up causing him to miss five more games.
"I'm definitely listening to the trainers this time. Last time I wanted to come back and help the guys with Paul being out and Delonte being out. I thought I could give us something," said Szczerbiak. "It turned out I was asked to do a lot out there and I wasn't quite healed."
The realities of the NBA are such that players often put pressure on themselves to return from injuries whether they're ready or not. Finding a balance between tolerable pain and debilitating pain is always a challenge.
"You've got to remember that in this league, you play, you play the next day and then you play the next day, and the next game keeps coming. So unless you're pretty much healed and ready to go it's a tough situation to deal with, and when I come back this time I will be as close to 100% as I can be."
Clifford Ray missed practice Wednesday afternoon, as he will be honored at the University of Oklahoma tonight during halftime of their game against Nebraska as part of their 100 years of basketball celebration.
Ray lettered in three seasons for the Sooners and averaged 10.9 PPG and 10.1 RPG over his college career with Oklahoma from 1969-1971.