Rivers Gives Injury Updates After Light Practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – Monday’s open practice in Waltham, Mass., wasn’t what you’d call a full-scale preparation for the Boston Celtics. Ten players began the practice with stretching and shooting drills, but only six were involved in the final drills of the day, and none of them were part of Boston’s starting five.

Don’t be alarmed – the Celtics’ starting five isn’t injured. Instead, since the C’s were together for the third straight day (two practices and one game) and have a practice and game in front of them over the next two days, Doc Rivers chose to work his second unit and let the starters rest.

As the final group worked hard at one end of the court on their offensive sets, Kendrick Perkins went through some on-and-off layup drills at the other end. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo disappeared from the court, likely heading back into the weight room to get their day’s training in. Paul Pierce, who underwent an MRI today, did not participate in today’s practice for precautionary reasons.

With none of the starters running through the practice’s final drills, that meant none of them were available after practice for comment. So today’s media session was limited to Rivers, and most of his conversation pertained to injury updates about the Celtics. As another rarity, in addition to the starters missing the close of practice, Boston’s head coach was able to give good news on nearly every injury front that the Celtics are currently facing. Here are the latest updates on the walking wounded in Boston:

Paul Pierce: It didn’t sound good Sunday afternoon when Pierce notified the media that he would undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of an injury to his left foot. After going 0-for-10 from the field and scoring only one point against the Heat, even Pierce acknowledged that the pain in his foot, coupled with a sprained right wrist, had affected his play.

When Pierce appeared on the court in civilian clothes and an enormous ice wrap on his wrist during Monday’s practice, things didn’t look good, either. But after practice wrapped up Rivers delivered the news that will allow all Celtics fans to sleep well tonight.

“It’s OK. Everything’s good,” said Rivers of Pierce’s foot. “I think there’s some bruising, obviously, swelling, but everything he can play with, and that was very good.”

Pierce is expected to play Wednesday night, extending his season-long streak of not missing a game, and then will head into All-Star weekend. He’s scheduled to defend his 3-Point Contest crown against Ray Allen as well as play in the game, but the odds are that his participation will be limited in order to get his body right for the stretch run of the season.

Delonte West: West is on the fast path to a return to the lineup Wednesday night against the Nets, but there could be one hang up. Rivers plans to practice the team again on Tuesday, and if West can make it through that session without any lingering pain he will be on the court Wednesday night in the Garden. Considering the type of practice Rivers plans on running, that may not be an easy task for West.

“We can’t go too hard – we don’t have enough bodies – but we’re going to go as hard as we can with what we have and just see how it goes,” Rivers said.

Nonetheless, West has been practicing at full speed for a few sessions now and there are no indications that he is suffering any setbacks. That means we’re likely to see No. 13 make his return to the lineup against the same team he was injured against back on Nov. 24 – the Nets.

Semih Erden: Erden has not played since Feb. 6 due to a right adductor strain and, just a few days ago, Rivers sounded as if he did not know when the rookie center from Turkey would return to the lineup. On Monday, however, the update on Erden took a turn for the positive when Rivers told the media that it looks as if the backup center will be available for the West Coast trip that follows the All-Star break.

“Semih is actually the guy that has improved the most,” Rivers said. “If you had asked us three days ago, we would have said that Semih would not play on the West Coast trip and Shaq would, and now it’s the exact opposite. It looks like Semih will be ready when we get to Golden State.”

Jermaine O’Neal: One of the O’Neals who Boston brought on board this summer has had a minimal impact due to left knee pain that has lingered all season long. When rehab didn’t alleviate the pain, J.O. opted to undergo knee surgery on Feb. 4, a procedure that is expected set him out of the lineup for about six to eight weeks.

We’re only about a week and a half removed from that procedure, but O’Neal and the Celtics are already seeing positive returns. For the first time all season, Rivers beamed with a positive vibe when speaking about O’Neal as he spoke quickly about progress thus far since the surgery.

“He’s doing great actually,” said Rivers. “I think he feels really happy that he did the surgery. You can tell, it’s a race with him because he wants to get back so he can try and help us.”

Although it still looks like the timetable remains the same, the good news is that there has already been progress with the pain, something the C’s couldn’t get to happen with alternative treatment earlier this season.

Shaquille O’Neal: The Big Shamrock was the only injured Celtic who was not mentioned in a positive light this afternoon. Shaq has missed Boston’s last five games with an injured Achilles that the Celtics initially believed would only set him back one or two games. That timetable has now turned into nearly two weeks, and no one knows when Shaq might return to the lineup.

Said Rivers, “It’s not improving – like, at all. I don’t think it’s improved not one bit.”

It certainly doesn’t sound good, but as Rivers noted after practice, Shaq is a 38-year-old monster who has taken a beating in his career, and it’s likely that his injuries will just take longer to heal than they did back in the day. The injury isn’t anything of serious nature such as a break or tear, so Boston simply has to wait it out and wait for the day to arrive when Shaq is healthy enough to return to the lineup.