Knee injury just the latest painful chapter for Powe

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / April 26, 2009
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CHICAGO - As the Celtics prepared for today's playoff game against the Bulls, injured forward/center Leon Powe was mentally preparing himself to overcome major knee surgery for the third time.

Powe's season ended when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee in Game 2 last Monday. He said yesterday that the swelling has gone down and he hopes to have a surgery date tomorrow.

Powe plans on rehabilitating his knee with a specialist in Los Angeles. His agent, Aaron Goodwin, said Powe should be able to play again by the middle of the 2009-10 season.

"It's nothing to get down about," Powe said. "I can't be down for too long. I'll work extremely hard to get the leg back."

In what coach Doc Rivers described as a "freak accident," Powe was injured in the first quarter of a 118-115 victory. Rivers said Powe played with the torn ACL for three minutes before being taken out with 10:13 left in the half.

"I knew I did something wrong, but not anything like that," Powe said.

Powe has a history of major left knee injuries dating back to his days at Oakland Tech High.

He had reconstructive surgery in the spring of 2002 after his junior season in high school. He had reconstructive surgery again and bone graft surgery during his sophomore year in college at Cal.

This season, Powe missed 10 games from March 18 to April 8 with a right knee sprain.

He believes his experience in overcoming knee surgery will aid his return.

"I know I can come back," Powe said. "It's all about putting in the work in rehab. If you put in the work, good results will happen."

Powe's timing couldn't have been worse, as he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 2006 second-round pick is hopeful that he can return to the Celtics, but he understands this is a business, too. He averaged 7.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 17.5 minutes during 70 games in the regular season.

"We'll see where it goes," said Powe, 25. "I'm just trying to get my leg right. If they want me to come back, I'd love to come back. If not, I'll go for something else."

"We have to cross that bridge when we get to it," said Goodwin. "We are first and foremost concerned with having a good surgery and rehab progress.

"I would hope the Celtics would bring Leon back. He can be back midseason. If not, we will check with other teams to see if they would let him sign through his rehab. If not, he'll be looking to play midseason somewhere.

"We want to make sure he has the best opportunity to rehab the knee. Quite honestly, if the Celtics are not going to participate in that, we want to find the best place for him to come back as quickly and strongly as possible."

The Celtics have luxury tax concerns with $75 million in committed salary next season, but no first-round pick that would garner a guaranteed three-year contract.

"What I hope for him first and foremost is that he's healthy and that he is playing well," said Paul Pierce. "As far as him being a free agent, it's tough when you have an injury like that, understanding the business and where the economics is today. It's a bad situation.

"But people have to understand he's a hard worker, and if he can get back and get his knee right, I don't think he'll have a problem being with the Celtics or wherever he may be."

Asked to give his thoughts on Powe's free agency situation, Rivers said, "I can't. I really can't. Again, it just breaks my heart. That's a tough one for me. He's one of my favorites, as everyone knows. So that's a tough one."

This is just the latest setback in a life filled with adversity for Powe. Along with the knee issues, he grew up in poverty and fatherless, was homeless at 7 after his family home burned down, spent time in foster care, and his mother died four days before he played in the state championship in high school.

"You got to look at what he's been through with his family," Pierce said. "With his previous injuries and to fight back to where he is today, I know he will get through this."

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