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Gomes making most of his time

Preparedness is key for Celtics' rookie

In the last two games, Ryan Gomes has played 35 and 44 minutes.
In the last two games, Ryan Gomes has played 35 and 44 minutes. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

WALTHAM -- There is an earnestness about Ryan Gomes that makes you certain he practices hard, whether he's starting or inactive. He is soft-spoken, thoughtful, and ever the team player.

When fellow rookie Gerald Green recently made his NBA debut and spoke about being ''anxious," Gomes suggested it might sound better if he said ''excited." From that point on, Green was ''excited" about the opportunity to play a few minutes here and there.

If Gomes has been anxious, excited, or overwhelmed by his new role, you'd never know it. In two starts for the Celtics, he has played 35 and 44 minutes and looked completely comfortable.

But for most of his time with the team, Gomes has sat on the bench. Every now and again, coach Doc Rivers has mentioned how he wanted to find playing time for Gomes, how among Brian Scalabrine, Justin Reed, and Gomes, there would have to be an odd man out. More often than not it was Gomes.

Teammates were impressed by what Gomes did in practice as he learned both forward positions, ultimately focusing on power forward because that was where he could get more repetitions. Still, it took injuries to Al Jefferson (sprained right ankle) and Kendrick Perkins (dislocated left shoulder) to make room for Gomes.

When Jefferson and Perkins return to the court, it remains to be seen whether space will remain for Gomes. But if he keeps playing the way he has, Rivers must find a regular role for the rookie, even if it means stretching a fairly short rotation.

Either way, on the court or on the bench, Gomes will take whatever happens in stride.

''Doing all the extra stuff that I was doing when I wasn't playing is paying off now," said Gomes. ''You've got to be ready all times.

''Whatever I can do that gets me out there on the floor, I'm comfortable doing that. I know [power forward] is an advantage because I'm quicker on my end. I've just got to maximize what I do."

Gomes has maximized his rebounding, grabbing 9 boards in each of his starts. It's a skill he started to hone in high school.

''One thing I did in high school was just go to the glass," said Gomes. ''I had guards on my team that were very good and liked to shoot the ball a lot and miss. Now, I just try to figure out angles, beat guys to the ball, time where it's coming off at. That can be a strength for me in this league. So it's something I'm going to continue to try to do."

With Jefferson and Perkins expected to return at some point during the upcoming trip west, Gomes should have at least a start or two more. With plentiful minutes on a consistent basis, there is no telling what he might be able to do.

Prior to starting against Portland last Friday, Gomes had been inactive for 10 games and did not play in eight others because of a coach's decision. He had never played more than 20 minutes in a contest, and that was back on Nov. 11 against San Antonio. Until this opportunity came, a more typical night was playing one or two meaningless minutes, maybe five or six.

''It's been different, like the blink of an eye, from not playing any minutes to being deactivated before the trade to getting late minutes at the end of games to now starting," said Gomes. ''I've got to use it as an opportunity for me to show the coaches and make me have more confidence in myself that I can play at this level.

''My confidence has shot up a lot because being in practice doing things is different than being in games. In practice, I do some things well and the coaches tell me that and the other players tell me that. But until you get out on the floor and do it against opponents, that's when the adjustment comes in having them believe in you and you believe more in yourself."

Yesterday, Gomes and the other starters got a break in practice. They deserved it. With the exception of Raef LaFrentz (foul trouble), the starters all logged at least 41 minutes against the Magic Sunday. Paul Pierce played 47, Wally Szczerbiak played 46, and Gomes his career-high 44. Rivers mainly had players watch film and went through plays with the reserves.

''If we hadn't made the deal and didn't have the injuries, we probably would have taken the day off," said Rivers. ''But with Paul, Wally, Delonte, Ryan, and even Raef, they played so many minutes, I didn't want to get them on the floor much. We still got something done.

''With young guys, I don't know if you can give them any days off."

Gomes is proof of what can happen when you make the most of practice time.

The Celtics announced a ticket exchange policy for fans who were unable to attend Sunday's game against the Magic because of the snowstorm. Fans with unused tickets can exchange them for seats to the March 22 game against the Raptors or the April 5 game against the Wizards. They can be exchanged at the box office or mailed to: Boston Celtics, 226 Causeway St., 4th Floor, Boston 02114, Attn: Blizzard Exchange. Requests must be postmarked or redeemed at the Garden box office by Feb. 21. Fans who mail tickets should indicate which game they prefer to attend.

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