- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett joined his teammates for full-contact basketball activities for the first time in two weeks on Saturday and said he will use the team's off-day practice to better gauge when he might be able to return to game action.
The 36-year-old Garnett has been inactive since March 22 when left ankle inflammation forced the team to shut him down with the goal of getting him healthy. Celtics coach Doc Rivers had previously eyed Sunday's visit from the Washington Wizards as a potential return date for Garnett, but said he would see how he responded to Saturday's activity first.
Garnett's injury first flared in a loss in New Orleans on March 20 but he played through discomfort in Dallas on March 22. He said Saturday he was eager to get going again.
"I have some issues with my foot," explained Garnett. "More from like the motion, if you’re pushing the gas pedal. It’s an issue. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be out. But I am getting better. I’m going to practice today and Doc and I will have a conversation and make some decisions for the future."
Added Garnett: "Everybody is dealing with their different ailments, I’m no different from that. Obviously, as you get older, things tend to linger a little longer. I am getting stronger. I was able to heal up other things that were nagging me. But just my foot is an issue."
Both Garnett and Rivers stressed the importance of balancing the need to get Garnett some game reps over the final six games of the regular season and making sure he's healthy enough to dive back in.
"It’s important to get him back on the floor, but if he’s not ready, he’s not ready," said Rivers. "I don’t know what the number of games is, everybody has their own thing with that, rhythm-wise, each individual player. And I don’t what Kevin’s would be, but I do know he’s been out a while and the playoffs are soon. So the sooner he gets back on the floor, the better. And I would lean towards him, now, once he’s cleared health-wise, it’s probably better for him, even if he can’t play a lot of minutes, to play in games. Because no matter what we do in practice, practice will never duplicate a game. And it’s never going to be the same intensity."
Garnett has been running and shooting lately, but Saturday would be his first contact activities since the inflammation occurred.
"Obviously, I want to get a rhythm," said Garnett. "I want to come in and be able to contribute. I want to get as close to 100 percent as I can. I’ve never come into postseason 100 percent, so it’s nothing new. But I do want a rhythm. And these last couple games, obviously, we’re playing for something. We’re trying to get things done as we’re out here playing. It’s pretty much what it is. I don’t want to go into the postseason, have no rhythm. I want to be healthy. That’s my first priority."
Garnett labeled himself day-to-day.
"If I’m able [to play], if I’m strong enough and I feel like I can contribute, then yeah, other than that -- it’s all guts, it’s all grit," said Garnett. "That’s pretty much how my makeup is. I’ve always been able to put mind over matter with certain things and then when I was unable to do common things like walk or get in my car or drive myself, then obviously that’s an issue. But other than that, I’m used to playing through a lot of different things."