Life Without KG, Lee Should be Temporary

BOSTON - That pestering injury bug has been biting yet again in Boston. Kevin Garnett (foot) and Courtney Lee (ankle) were the latest players to have been bitten, but the good news is that they both should recover soon.

Garnett and Lee have not been on the floor for the Celtics since Friday night's game in Dallas. Additionally, they both missed Monday's practice. However, Doc Rivers, who spoke to the media before practice began, stated that Lee is on the verge of returning and Garnett may only miss a handful of games while recovering from ankle inflammation.

Courtney Lee and Kevin Garnett

Courtney Lee and Kevin Garnett should return to Boston's lineup in the near future.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

Rivers anticipates that Lee will be healthy enough to play Tuesday night when the Celtics host the New York Knicks. That's not surprising in the least bit, seeing as Saturday's game was the first this season in which Lee was unavailable.

Lee has had much more luck in the injury department than Garnett has, particularly of late. KG has now missed three of Boston's last four games with an assortment of ailments that spanned from illness to injury. It sounds as if Garnett will add to that string of recent absences when the C's take the court Tuesday night.

"I don't think Kevin is playing tomorrow. I'm almost positive of that," Rivers said. "But then what we want to make sure is that he's going to be good soon."

Soon is the operative word in that last sentence. The Celtics want and need Garnett back in the lineup as soon as possible for a myriad of reasons. They understand that they are unlikely to make a strong push toward the playoffs without him.

Fortunately for Boston, all indications are that KG will not be out of the lineup for long. He underwent an MRI Monday morning that upon initial review did not reveal any substantial damage. Danny Ainge stated later Monday that Garnett may miss a couple of weeks as a precaution, but this injury should not threaten KG's availability for the playoffs.

"I don't know what long term is, but if you mean that he's not going to play this year, no, I don't worry about that," Rivers said. "But can he miss four or five games? Yeah. That's probably possible."

Rivers, long before Ainge spoke to a handful of reporters, also commented on the Celtics' plan to be cautious with bringing Garnett back into the lineup.

"Whatever they decide, if they give me an option of you can play him every third game or give him two weeks rest, I can tell you right now I'm going to say two weeks rest," said Rivers. "If it was my decision that's where I would go, because at the end of the day, I want him right. I don't want him half right."

Until Garnett returns to 100 percent, the Celtics will need to make due without him. That isn't easy, especially considering how much the big man brings to the table.

Garnett's emotional presence alone is immeasurable. His approach to the game rubs off on his teammates. That presence is deeply missed when KG isn't on the floor. Paul Pierce touched on that fact Monday morning when he discussed the long list of injuries the Celtics have dealt with this season.

"Kind of discouraged," Pierce said of the vibes running through the Celtics' locker room. "You see the look on guys faces, and I think that has something to do with the injuries. When Kevin went down and Courtney Lee going down, that's just something... sometimes it just kind of wears on you mentally."

On top of the emotional stress that KG's injury brings, his setback will also play a role in the way the Celtics play. Boston must change its approach to games in terms of X's and O's while Garnett is out of the lineup.

Believe it or not, that may entail putting more of an emphasis on offense than defense. Take Saturday's game in Memphis, for example. Rivers believed his team needed to outscore the Grizzlies in order to win that game. He was prepared to turn the game into a shootout.

"Honestly, going into the Memphis game, with the size that we had on the floor, I went into that game thinking it was going to have to be a 120-115 game," Rivers explained. "I just didn't see us being a great defensive team that night."

The Celtics won't need to attempt to light up the scoreboard in the long run, seeing as Garnett is expected to return in the near future. However, while he's out of the lineup the Celtics may need to be creative and test out some alternate styles of basketball.

"Right now, each game we've got to pick how we want to play that night," said Rivers. "That's hard with all of the new guys we have here, but that's how we may have to be."

But only in the short term, which is great news for Celtics fans and not great news for Celtics opponents. The injury bug bit again this past weekend but the wounds won't last for long. Lee should be back on the floor Tuesday night, while Garnett thankfully isn't too far behind.