Celtics claim Pierce's knee free of structural damage despite lack of MRI

Updated: June 7, 2008, 12:46 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce does not have any structural damage to his knee.

At least that's what the Boston Celtics are saying, although they haven't performed an MRI to take a look at exactly how badly Pierce damaged his meniscus when he was injured during the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

"It still could be worse than I'm really putting off. I'm not planning on getting an MRI until after the season, so I mean, it could be bad, but right now I'm just getting treatments and see how I feel on Sunday," Pierce said Friday, adding that there's a "great chance" he'll play in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pierce's injury took on a life of its own Friday, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressing further skepticism about the severity of the injury because of the speed with which Pierce returned after being carried off the court by teammates and transported in a wheelchair to the locker room.

Pierce said he still had some swelling and stiffness in his knee and would undergo treatment throughout the day and the weekend.

"I can walk on it, I can bend it, but there's a little sharp pain on the inside of my knee," he said.

It was unclear why Pierce and/or the Celtics were resisting an MRI, which could definitively show whether Pierce tore either the medial or lateral meniscus in his right knee when he heard a popping sound as the injury happened. Calls to Pierce's agent, Jeff Schwartz, were not immediately returned.

At this point with two weeks left, six games to go, we can figure this out after the season.

-- Paul Pierce,
on his injured knee

"Well, I had two doctors look at it, and we did some tests on it, some standing lateral movements," Pierce said. "Regardless of the MRI at this point, I mean, what is it really going to tell us? The extent of the injury, but at this point with two weeks left, six games to go, we can figure this out after the season. Either I can play or I can't, regardless of what the MRI says."

Pierce went down after colliding with Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, who left the game a few minutes later with an injured left ankle.

Perkins, who has a high ankle sprain, said Friday he expects to play Sunday, but that he could be limited. Pierce returned and hit two big 3-pointers in the Celtics' 98-88 victory, but Perkins did not play again.

"He told me at the beginning of the fourth, he said, 'I can give you 60 percent,'" Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Perkins. "So I was thinking, 'Well, that's not good enough.'"

The drama of Pierce's comeback spurred some commentators to compare it to Willis Reed's comeback from a serious hip injury in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Jackson, who was a teammate of Reed on that championship New York Knicks team, took issue with the Reed scenario being a valid comparison.

"If I'm not mistaken, I think Willis Reed missed a whole half and three quarters almost of a game and literally had to have a shot, a horse shot, three or four of them in his thigh to come back out and play," Jackson said. "Paul got carried off and was back on his feet in a minute.

"I don't know if the angels visited him … in that timeout period that he had or not, but he didn't even limp when he came back out on the floor. I don't know what was going on there. Was Oral Roberts back there in their locker room?" Jackson said, making a reference to the controversial American televangelist who preached the possibility of miracles.

Jackson's skepticism was relayed to Garnett, Pierce's best friend on the Celtics.

"It's not up to them to approve or disapprove or to judge," Garnett said. "The man got carried off the court. I mean, that's pretty significant. That's what it is. I don't know what they're doing over there. I'm focused on what we're doing over here. But he looked pretty hurt, came in and finished the game off. I know it don't look easy and he made it probably look a little easy, but at the same time, they wasn't over there seeing him grimacing, the massaging and on the bike and ice and that stuff. When you don't know what's going on on the other side, you just make up stuff."

Boston coach Doc Rivers also had a take on Jackson's skepticism:

"Oh, I don't care," he said. "Aren't we skeptics anyway now about everything? So what the heck; let it begin. Let it begin. Lee Harvey Oswald did it."

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
Information from ESPN's Rachel Nichols and The Associated Press was used in this report.