Bellyaching In Beantown

First the New England Patriots' Super Bowl loss, now this. If you haven't heard, the Celtics are hurting. Most noteably, two-thirds of the Celtics' Big Three appear to be in some serious pain.

Ray Allen admitted that his ankles are still sore more than 10 months after he had double-ankle surgery to remove bone spurs and scar tissues. But more important, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that Kevin Garnett could be out for a long time with an abdominal strain.

Garnett had missed the past three games, but the Celtics kept making it sound like the frontrunner for the league's most valuable player award would be back soon. Not anymore. Garnett won't play tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers and will likely miss his reunion game in Minnesota on Friday. The worst part is the Celtics might not even take Garnett on the trip to his beloved 'Sota.


Ugh. Gosh, this hurts! I can't believe I have to go all out to beat Minnesota. I can't even travel for the rematch. No dinner with Prince and Jimmy Jam! (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

"There's no date (for his return)," Rivers told reporters in Boston on Monday. "It could be as early as this weekend or it could be after All-Star break. . .Hopefully, he's back before All-Star break, but if he's not, then we have that whole break, as well."

The Celtics have gone 2-1 without Garnett, beating Dallas and Miami - by 30 (!?!) in a game that Allen didn't play, either - and nearly beating Orlando on the road. Rivers got upset with reporters who suggested that the Celtics had been hiding the severity of the injury.

"This is the first time he's been out like this and he's gotten better each day as far as handling his emotions with not being able to play," Rivers said. "He's working hard. We have to be careful with that so he doesn't overdo it. . .I think it's one of those slow-healing things that there's no reason for us to take a gamble on."

If the Celtics are smart, they will sit Garnett for as long as possible. Abdominal injuries are not to be messed with. Three years ago, Etan Thomas had an abdominal strain that kept him out for 32 games. He came back, looked fine the rest of the season, until he aggravated the injury in the playoffs. The year before that, Gilbert Arenas had his longest extended absence prior to this season, as he missed 27 games because of a similar abdominal strain. Arenas, though, rushed back and had several ineffective games.

With the East so dreadful, the Celtics have already wrapped up a playoff spot with 36 wins, but it will be interesting to see if they can can stay atop the conference with just Paul Pierce and a hobbling Allen.

Making matters worse, former rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, stole some of the thunder of the Celtics' revival by pulling off that deal for Pau Gasol. Man, it must be rough being a Boston fan right now.

By Michael Lee |  February 5, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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Comments

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Like I said yesterday, the Celtis meltdown will be ALMOST as fun as watching the Pats get punched in the mouth in the Super Bowl. Compiling aging stars for a championship run rarely works. Ask Karl Malone and Payton how it worked out in Miami or Barkley how it worked for him. Drexler was able to pull it off but more often than not by the time superstars get together, they're older and injury prone. Injuries were predicted for this Celts team by a lot of folks outside of Boston before the season began. They seem to have made the mistake that the Wiz were making. Big Baby and some of the youngsters should have gotten a lot more PT to keep the old guys fresh. IMHO, it's much better to go into the playoffs with 50 wins, fresher legs, and a deeper bench than 60 wins, fatigue, and no experienced backups. The Warriors proved that if you are able to play hard and hit some threes (directly attributable to having fresh legs), the seeding difference between 2 and , say 6, doesn't matter as much as ppl think. I know it's a whole different ballgame but the Giants just won a bunch of games on the road to kiss the cup (metaphor). Home court advanrtage CAN be overcome.
This is a lesson that the Wiz have had to learn. I just hope that we can somehow manage to win 42-50 and rest our main guys a bit more.
I predict 48 wins for the Wiz, the 5th seed and a first and second round win at least. For the 4th time, I'm betting my house on it.

Posted by: mark | February 5, 2008 8:33 AM

I meant lack of home court advantage can be overcome. In bball, the importance of 3 point shot is really understated. A hot shooting 8 can beat a 1 in a series at any time if they are able to hit some 3's with any consistency.
With a playoff lineup of GA, CB, AJ, DS and BTH/AB, we have four 3 point threats on the court. Combine them with Pech, NY, RM, and AD off the bench, and we could shock the world.

Posted by: mark | February 5, 2008 8:37 AM

NBA reality is setting in up and down the East Coast and on the Great Lakes as well.

The Celtics will have to sacrifice W-L to keep Allen and Garnett reasonably healthy for the playoffs, fortunately they have a huge cushion!

The Nets may look at the injuries hitting the Celts and the question marks surrounding the Wizards and decide to keep the core together and go for the 7-8 spot.

The Wizards... well Mike Wise was right... they have gotten great effort out of the unit they have but they need Gilbert back on the court and in the flow... 21 pts with 8 assists should do it.

Cleveland is going to have to make a deal, because they can repeat if they have one more weapon in the aresenal.

Toronto has got to come to grips with the TJ Ford conundrum (I fear foor him whenver he attacks the basket), and see if the real Bargnani will step forward too.

The Bulls need to do something, the playoffs are a realistic expectation IF they can spice up their lineup, sane holds for Atlanta.

Detroiut sits pretty in all this.

Should be fun.

Posted by: khrabb | February 5, 2008 8:59 AM

Injuries to the big-3 in Bean Town? I'm SHOCKED. Who could have predicted that?

Posted by: Rook | February 5, 2008 9:18 AM

Resting players is nice, but the Wizards arent going to win many games with their bench. They dont produce consistently enough. Every game is important for seeding. If we are the 7th seed, that means Detroit, not pretty for us.

Personally, I think we should go for the Division. We're only 5 games back. The schedule is tough and it might be out of reach by the end of February.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 10:20 AM

"If we are the 7th seed, that means Detroit, not pretty for us."

Not necessarily. There's still plenty of time for Detroit to overtake Boston for the #1 spot in the East. (Not that that makes things any easier for the Wiz if they get the 7th seed. I'm just sayin'.)

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 11:28 AM

"A hot shooting 8 can beat a 1 in a series at any time if they are able to hit some 3's with any consistency."

If it's that easy, how come it's only happened twice in NBA playoff history?

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 11:31 AM

The Celtics won't win the title with all of those old dudes and scrubs. If the Wizards get the eighth seed, I wouldn't be upset. We've beaten them without Gilbert. When Gilbert comes back, we'll destroy those decrepit old farts in a playoff series. I mean, c'mon. KG may be cagey, Ray may be wily and Pierce may be fierce, but they can't hang with the Wiz kids. No sir.

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