Commentary

Celtics know all about injuries

Updated: February 18, 2010, 11:34 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers are not expected to have the services of Kobe Bryant on Thursday night when they host the Boston Celtics at the Staples Center.

Don't expect Boston to shed any tears for Los Angeles' loss.

"[Injuries] happen every year to somebody; it's tough to go a full season without them," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said Wednesday during the team's workout at UCLA. "It rarely happens, to have a healthy team the whole season. It's something most teams go through. I think some ways it makes you better, but in some ways it makes you worse."

The Celtics know all about injuries. Boston played only its first game with a healthy roster two weeks ago against the Orlando Magic. (Even then you could say the team was short-handed without second-year guard J.R. Giddens, who was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and with an open roster spot after waiving Lester Hudson earlier this season.)

The Celtics celebrated the notion of having a healthy roster at practice Wednesday, even if Giddens remained home recovering and Eddie House practiced despite the news that he might be headed to the New York Knicks on Thursday in a deadline deal for Nate Robinson.

That didn't matter. The Celtics put a premium on any practice involving 12 healthy bodies or more at this point.

"It's not an excuse [for losing], the injury thing, but what hurt us more was being unable to work on stuff in the first half because we didn't have enough bodies," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose troops dropped 13 of their last 22 games before the All-Star break. "This is a good day for a practice. Twelve bodies, that's a good day to practice. We can do a little bit more, see if we can catch up on practices we missed before."

The Celtics went through an active, hour-plus session dotted by a persistent group of student gawkers craning their necks to glimpse through a partially covered glass window on the gym door, then oohing and aahing at the sight of All-Stars like Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.

Los Angeles reporters quizzed Rivers on the reason for his team's struggles before the All-Star break, and he maintained the company line, noting that the team simply wants to be better -- and healthy -- when the playoffs roll around in mid-April.

"Teams go through [injuries]; we did," said Rivers, whose squad endured the pitfall of injuries in last year's playoffs without Garnett. "We're just trying to get better. Our goal is [to play well] at the end of the year. We don't want to be the best right now, we want to be the best later. We haven't shown anyone we can do that yet.

"We were awful rebounding; we turned the ball over a lot. We played great basketball in stretches, but we have not had the ability to be a 48-minute team. We've been a 44-minute team, a 36-minute team. But we haven't put that [48 minutes] together. That's what we're going to work on. We'll get there, but we're not there yet."

Pierce suggested the lack of practice time has hurt the team's continuity, something it has had to build on the fly with a busy schedule and a lack of time in the Waltham, Mass., practice facilities.

"With the lack of practice time, we haven't played consistently, regardless of who's on the court," said Pierce, an early arriver at practice with Garnett on Wednesday. "Injured or not, that's one thing we have to get back to being -- more consistent at both ends of the court."

For Pierce, an Inglewood, Calif., native, a visit to his old stomping grounds always makes a Celtics-Lakers matchup that much bigger. But he downplayed Thursday's matchup, saying every game will have a little extra emphasis for the Celtics moving forward this season.

As for Bryant, he told reporters Wednesday that he is doubtful for the rivalry game and expects to miss his fifth straight contest because of a lack of strength and lingering pain in his left leg and ankle.

"Right now, it's a no," Bryant said. "If I wake up tomorrow and I feel drastically different, then I'll play. But I doubt it."

Maybe the Lakers don't need him. Los Angeles has won its past four games, holding opponents to 94 points or fewer (and an average of 86.5 points per game) in topping the Blazers, Spurs, Jazz and Warriors by an average margin of victory of 13.5 points per game.

"They're different but still pretty good, obviously," said Rivers, who noted the Warriors were the only team to even get close to triple digits during that four-game stretch. "Defensively, they've been fantastic. I think they should just go the rest of the year without [Bryant]. That would be terrific."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin contributed.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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