Banged Up, C’s Looking at More Small Ball

WALTHAM - He doesn't like going small, but the Celtics' injury situation isn't giving Doc Rivers much of a choice these days.

"I don't really love it, honestly. I do it with this team because I think it gives us the best chance to win," Rivers said. "Give me two bigs, all day."

At this point, just one healthy big would be nice.

With Al Jefferson's appendectomy, Theo Ratliff's back woes and Michael Olowokandi's abdominal injury, the Celtics have had to go deep into their roster just to field a team over the last two weeks. Olowokandi missed the last two games, Jefferson hasn't played since third game of the season, and Ratliff has appeared in just two of the Celtics' 10 games. Suddenly, guys like Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine are logging minutes as de facto centers.

After Tuesday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint in Waltham, Rivers said that there is a chance Jefferson could play against the Bobcats after he practiced for the first time since his appendectomy. Meanwhile, Delonte West didn't practice at all, and according to Rivers, Kendrick Perkins (plantar fasciitis, left foot) went 10 minutes before taking a seat. As for Szczerbiak, who's been nursing a sore gluteus, he practiced and will likely be ready for action in Charlotte.

With so many injuries in the frontcourt, Rivers half-jokingly said he might go with five guards.

"If you can't match up to their size at all, then don't try. We may have to do that tomorrow anyway if Perkins [plays and] gets into foul trouble," said Rivers, who noted that Powe might see some action at the center spot.

Injuries may force some less-than-ideal lineups, but Paul Pierce, who leads the Celtics in rebounding at 9.4 RPG, knows that the injury bug comes with the territory in the NBA.

"It's tough, but it happens every year. Guys are going to go down," Pierce said. "Other guys have to be ready when their number is called."

Some opponents, like the New York Knicks, don't like matching up against the Celtics when they go with their small lineup. But other opponents might start licking their chops at the prospect of the Celtics fielding a small lineup. The Charlotte Bobcats are probably one of them. Emeka Okafor had a huge game against the Celtics on November 8, scoring 28 points and grabbing 18 rebounds for Charlotte in their overtime loss. The Bobcats have size in guys like Gerald Wallace and Sean May to play alongside Okafor, and they would enjoy a considerable advantage up front if both Jefferson and Perkins can't suit up.

If he does play, Perkins, who logged four blocks and eight rebounds against the Knicks, has the potential to be a game-changer when he's on the floor.

"His presence in the middle changed the game so much, that a lot of things that you saw him do didn't show up in the stat sheets," Pierce said. "We need him out there on the court."

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