Elbow forces Pierce to sit
Paul Pierce, shown here on the bench in last week's loss to the Knicks, collected just his 17th career DNP on Sunday. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Doc Rivers mentioned before last night's game that he wouldn't hesitate to sit Paul Pierce in these final, meaningless games.
''If he's hurting, I won't play him," Rivers said, noting Pierce was bothered by a sore left elbow and a sore ankle. The coach did say that he would take into consideration Pierce's desire to play all 82 games, but, ultimately, it would be health uber alles.
Shortly thereafter, Pierce told Rivers that his left elbow, which has been bothering him much of the year, was sore. According to Rivers, the conversation then went something like this.
Rivers: ''Don't you want to play in all 82 games?"
Pierce: ''Yeah, but it's bothering me."
Rivers: ''Well, then, my thought would be to sit you down."
At that point, Rivers said, Pierce didn't mount much of a protest. And that's when Rivers made the decision. Pierce missed his first game of the season last night, a 95-93 Nets victory. It was the first game he had missed in two seasons, having gone wire-to-wire last season and hoping to do the same this season. The official culprit: bursitis.
Pierce, who missed the 17th game of his eight-year career, was not available to speak to reporters. Rivers said he would list Pierce as ''very doubtful" for tonight's game vs. the Cavaliers.
With Pierce out, that means Raef LaFrentz is the only player left who has a chance to play in all 82 games.
Pierce wasn't the only regular starter missing, just the most surprising, as his was a last-minute scratch. Delonte West (sore left calf) did not even make the trip here, missing his third straight game and ninth overall. Rivers said he was leaning toward shutting West down for the remainder of the season.
Celtics-Nets box score, E8