Garnett hopes nine-game absence will end Tuesday in Denver

Updated: February 19, 2008, 12:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

"The Big Ticket" is hoping to finally punch in to the Boston Celtics' lineup after missing their past nine games due to an abdominal strain.

Kevin Garnett told Boston media that based on the optimism he has felt from recent workouts, he has targeted Tuesday's game at the Denver Nuggets as his return.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty ImagesKevin Garnett is representing the East All-Stars in spirit. He hopes to be in a Celtics uniform and on the court later this week.

"I'm trying to play Tuesday," Garnett said from NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, according to The Boston Globe. "It's been miserable. To be honest, miserable. But I'm in a good place mentally. I'm dealing with it."

Garnett said he will know more after participating in Monday's practice in Denver -- in particular, how many minutes he is looking at initially.

"Monday's a big day for me and I look forward to it," Garnett said Sunday, according to The Globe.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said in recent weeks that Garnett will not return until he is 100 percent healthy. But if Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte determines Garnett can play, Rivers said he will be OK with the forward playing against the Nuggets.

On sitting out All-Star Weekend, Garnett told The Boston Herald: "Mentally I'm in a good place. You know, my injury is what it is. It's not like I can manipulate it or get it to do something else.

"But I'm here. My presence is here. I'm going to enjoy not only the guys but the festivities and the experience like I always do. But it is tough. I'm going to be one of the biggest cheerleaders out there and root on the East and enjoy it."

The Celtics are a league-best 41-9, have won five in a row and are 7-2 without Garnett, who is averaging 19.2 points and a team-best 9.9 rebounds.

"We're still fundamentally sound. Guys are stepping up. Guys have been playing really well," Garnett said, according to the Globe. "I just want us to continue to be who we are, come with the passion every night, and play hard."

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