The good news/bad news nature of the C’s roster situation came to the forefront this afternoon once again at practice at Waltham. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com was on the scene and gets us caught up with the latest developments regarding Paul Pierce, Delonte West and company.
We’ll start with Pierce, who sat out for the practice for the day while battling some kind of sickness. Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden both missed practice once again with their various ailments and in the good news department, West went through a full practice for the first time with the team since his wrist injury. Here’s Doc on everyone, including expecting The Truth to suit up tomorrow (does he really have a choice?) despite his illness:
“I expect him to play,” Rivers said of Pierce. “He’s just not feeling good. We’ll see Thursday. I don’t expect Shaq, I don’t expect Semih. I don’t think O’Neal can go yet so we’re just going to wait until he gets healthy.”
Despite the lack of manpower and with just 10 full guys in uniform for practice (including West) Rivers wasn’t make any excuses for tomorrow’s showdown:
“We don’t worry about body count,” Rivers said. “The Lakers are not going to worry about the body count, I can guarantee you that. We’ll be ready. We’ll be fine.”
But Rivers admitted that, operating without a pure swingman and dangerously thin at center, the team will be tested.
“Size will come into play at some point, tomorrow, but, listen, we have what we have,” Rivers said. “We’re going to line it up against whatever they have and see who wins the game.”
More on Mr. West after the jump With the C’s so thin on bodies, Delonte was thrown into the mix, with a few restrictions according to Rivers:
“We told players no reaching which is impossible with some of our guys but other than that, we got through it,”
Whose Doc referring to specifically here? Nate? Rondo? All of the above. I laughed, but also realized he’s actually dead on, though he likely said it in jest. In any case, here’s a couple quotes from Delonte on getting back into the swing of things.
“Obviously, with Marquis going down and Paul out today, I had to get on out there, probably sooner than I expected,” said West. “I definitely surprised myself. I was able to go full contact; I got down there, scrapped around with big guys. My conditioning was there, but my timing was a little off.
“I felt pretty good. If it was up to me, I’m confident in playing [Thursday]. But [coaches] said my timing was off and my familiarity with the plays wasn’t 100 percent. I guess in a game like [Thursday], we need ‘fo sho’s’ out there. I want to go [Thursday], I’m confident and I stressed that to the trainers, Ed Lacerte, and Doc, but I think they want to stick with the plan and get me a few more days of practice.”
Delonte is a riot. He’s not a fo sho yet, but hopefully he will be soon. In the meantime, I need to figure out a way to get Hayes to interview Delonte to set up comic gold.
CH’S Analysis: I’ll start from the top with Pierce. Doc expects him to play tomorrow. And guess what? Short of a 105 degree fever requiring hospitalization, he’s going to play because:
A) It’s the Lakers
B) This team desperately needs bodies until the All-Star Break
So we shouldn’t worry much about him being out there, just the reality of how much him being under the weather will affect his play. Definitely not what the C’s need right now, but with two full days off, here’s hoping the captain will be fully recovered.
Now onto Shaq and Semih: A glimpse at the schedule right now shows that besides the Lakers game tomorrow, the C’s are strategically picking a smart time to get both of these players “right” with their ailing bodies. A quick glimpse at the schedule the next couple weeks.
February 10: vs. Lakers
February 13: vs. Heat
February 16: vs. Nets
February 17-21: (All Star Break)
February 22: @ Golden State (Start of four-game road trip)
Obviously, the C’s could use another big body right now against the LA front line, but O’Neal only played 12 minutes anyway in the team’s matchup in January so the C’s can clearly get away with a win without him. Same obviously goes for Semih. If nothing else, the team needs both options to protect against foul trouble, as the Lakers would be wise to try pounding it inside against the KG, Perk and Big Baby trio to try to create trouble.
Nonetheless, splitting up 96 minutes between those three guys shouldn’t be tough to get away with for that one game. Perhaps Luke will be thrown in there for a short stint in the first half as well, but with two days of rest going in, the big man lineup options will be an inconvenience, not a problem as long as the foul trouble stays out of the picture.
Looking ahead to the team’s next few games, you’ll notice just how spread out these games are, and with two full days of rest in between games before the extended break, this is likely the C’s best timing to go shorthanded both upfront and in the backcourt.
We all know what the Heat’s front line looks like featuring scary names like Joel Anthony and Big Z and the Nets big guys won’t be keeping Doc Rivers up at night either. It’s important to keep all of this in consideration, on giving Shaq and Semih the 2-3 week stretch they need to rest all those nagging ailments.
WHEN WILL DELONTE PLAY?
We will wrap up here with Delonte, which was very encouraging to see him out there already. A lot of people are surely expecting a quick return here with the practice and roster crunch, similar to what we saw with Perk. A couple important distinguishing facts though between the situation.
First off, with Perk, he had practiced at least a couple weeks in full, before his surprise early return. For West, today was literally his first full-contact practice and was likely a little before C’s team doctors had planned intitially.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind just how vulnerable a broken wrist can be before it’s fully healed. You go out there even a couple weeks before you should, and fall on it the wrong way, you’ll pay for it. How do I know this? Remember, you’re talking to the wrist broken expert here. And yes I did the exact thing I just described and had to go back into the cast for weeks. I’m going to personally warn Delonte about this tomorrow night before the game, but luckily the C’s medical staff know this reality just as much as I do.
So as nice as it would be to have the extra swingman for these next three games, it’s really not worth the risk, since if Delonte goes back down, the C’s are in really big trouble. The minutes will continue to be too high for Pierce and Ray the next couple games in the meantime, but with the additional rest in-between games, it shouldn’t be a major burden.
In the interim, let Delonte shake off the rust on the practice floor the next couple weeks and have him ready to go for those Western Conference run-and-gun teams after the break, when the C’s will need the extra defender, shooter and ball handler. The team will probably have to rush him back, minutes wise, a bit more that they would have liked (a la Perk) but the situation is what it is.
For now, time to get through the next two weeks, try to sneak out with a 2-1 record during this homestand and regroup from there. A tall task, but certainly one the core of this roster is more than capable of as they cling to home court advantage in the east.