With Preseason Over, Final Preparations Underway

BOSTON - He was a bit late to the podium for his postgame address, but when he finally arrived, Doc Rivers laid out the plans for the next week before the regular season tips off at the TD Banknorth Garden next Wednesday.

In fact, he barely even discussed the 106-102 loss to the Raptors, which left the Celtics with a 3-5 preseason mark. He's much more concerned with the real games, which start next Wednesday when the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets visit the Garden. In the meantime, the team will take Thursday off from practice, which is customary on a day after a pair of back-to-back games, but they will be back on the floor in Waltham for a light workout Friday, and then go full steam ahead over Saturday and Sunday as Opening Night draws near.

With the exhibition games over and the roster mostly evaluated, Rivers says that he's pretty close to nailing down the previously unnamed 10-man rotation he needs. Rivers said he's probably got nine guys that he can go to now, but indicated that the roster is all but set.

"I told the guys that it's no longer a competition for spots now. It's more about us competing against the other teams," Rivers said. "Just defining roles is very important. When you're in preseason and you're a team like us with so many interchangeable parts, I think everybody's trying to do their best, more than [tying to understand] their own individual roles. So we've got to define that."

As for defining the regular season roster, there was no announcement on the final two cuts, but that could come as early as today. Asked after the game if there was any roster news, Rivers indicated that reporters would have to wait until Thursday.

Pierce Points To Opener

Paul Pierce flew home from Toronto after shootaround Tuesday because of his infected finger that was limiting his motion and making it painful to handle the basketball. But after getting medical attention, he was back on the floor before Wednesday night's game for some light shooting, and he seems confident that it wont be a problem come Opening Night.

"I'm going to take care of this infection. I'm taking antibiotics. The swelling went down," said Pierce before Wednesday's game. "I went out and shot on it and it's doing good. Doctors are taking extra precautions until they find out about the infection a little bit more. I'm going to sit out tonight and just make sure I'm ready for the regular season."

Wally Coming On Stronger

With Pierce on the sidelines nursing his infected digit, Wally Szczerbiak posted some impressive double-digits of his own. Playing in back-to-back games for the first time since last season, Szczerbiak showed that his health might be finally starting to come around. In just under 30 minutes Wednesday night, Szczerbiak dropped 27 points on 10-19 shooting. This followed a 16-point, four-rebound and four-assist night in New Jersey on Tuesday.

After a four-point performance in the opening preseason game against the Cavs and then sitting out the next game against the Raptors, Szczerbiak has averaged 19.8 PPG over his final five exhibition games. The bottom line: Szczerbiak is getting open, his teammates are finding him, and he's knocking shots down.

"I just feel healthier. I can move around a lot better and my legs are under me, you know? I'm starting to get stronger as the preseason has gone on and I'm starting to peak around regular season time which is what I hoped," Szczerbiak said. "I've just got to continue to work hard and stay strong."

Rivers attributes Szczerbiak's success to being healthy enough -- and mobile enough -- to be able to play off pick-and-roll situations, something he didn't think Szczerbiak could do effectively last year.

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