Celtics notebook

West is back on the shelf

Backup guard has ankle sprain

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 1, 2011

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SALT LAKE CITY — Guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle Sunday in a skeleton drill during the Celtics’ walkthrough, missed last night’s 107-103 win over the Jazz, and could miss tomorrow’s game against the Suns.

“It’s not a bad sprain,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “If it was a playoff game, he’d play. But you know how we are now. [He might even miss tomorrow’s] game, and then he’ll be back after that.’’

With West out, the Celtics’ only true point guard is Rajon Rondo.

West had only recently returned after being out with a broken right wrist, playing in all three games since the All-Star break. He initially appeared to still be feeling the effects from the wrist injury, missing some passes, but he seemed to be getting more comfortable. Saturday night against the Clippers, West went for 9 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds in 19 minutes.

“He was great,’’ Rivers said. “He ran the club, and I thought his leadership won the game for us down the stretch. He was calling the sets. Clearly, he has a group of sets that he’s comfortable with and he just stays within that, which is smart. He was very comfortable running the point and running the show.’’

Injuries have been the story of the Celtics’ season so far with nine players missing a combined 177 games.

“It’s been one of those years,’’ Rivers said.

After starting the season by serving a 10-game league suspension after pleading guilty to weapons charges, West missed 39 games after breaking his wrist Nov. 24. He’s played just eight games this season.

“I don’t even think they noticed today,’’ Rivers said. “We were doing film and I said, ‘Delonte’s not here.’ The guys were looking around. I don’t even think they count anymore who’s in the room and who’s not. They just kind of focus on what they have to do and move forward.’’

Centers of attention Center Shaquille O’Neal is likely to miss one to two more weeks because of an inflamed Achilles’ tendon, and center Jermaine O’Neal is likely out another three to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in January.

“We have every reason to believe and continue to believe that Shaq and J.O. will be healthy,’’ president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said.

After trading Kendrick Perkins and Semih Erden, the only true center on the roster is Nenad Krstic.

“We still have size,’’ Rivers said. “I’m almost laughing at people that say we don’t have size. Last time I checked, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq and Krstic, they’re pretty big. It’s almost laughable to me that people keep saying you’ve lost size. I think we may still be the biggest team in the NBA.’’

Shaquille O’Neal has missed the past nine games and 21 total. Jermaine O’Neal has missed 40 games this season.

“We want them to get healthy,’’ said forward Paul Pierce. “They’re everything that we need to make a run at the championship. If they don’t get healthy then it’s going to be tough.’’

Room to grow The Celtics have two roster spots available after the series of trades at the deadline (and Chris Johnson on a 10-day contract), and their options for adding players should become more obvious soon as teams throughout the league complete buyouts.

Troy Murphy, dealt to Golden State from New Jersey, was bought out yesterday by the Warriors. The Clippers jettisoned Rasual Butler, the Bobcats Morris Peterson, and the Wizards Mike Bibby, creating several options for playoff teams looking for pieces to get over the hump.

As long as a player is waived by midnight tonight, he is eligible to play for another team in the playoffs.

The Celtics, Heat, Knicks, and Magic are all rumored to have interest in Murphy, a 6-foot-11-inch forward who put up strong numbers a year ago with the Pacers (14.6 points, 10.2 rebounds) but struggled this season with the Nets (3.6, 4.2), limited to 18 games because of injuries.

Ainge declined to comment about the team’s interest in Murphy other than to say, “We still have available roster spots and we want to fill those.’’

“Everybody’s in the same boat,’’ said Rivers. “If you can pick up a player that you think is going to help your team, you’re going to do it. We’re no deeper than anyone else that’s trying to win it. Name the top seven teams, and those are the seven teams trying to get players.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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