Doc Rivers Could Have Sensitive Issue on His Hands If He Elects to Rest Celtics Veterans Down the Stretch

Doc Rivers Could Have Sensitive Issue on His Hands If He Elects to Rest Celtics Veterans Down the StretchBOSTON — One of these days, Kevin Garnett may have to sit out a game.

Garnett won't like it — he has played in 47 out of a possible 50 games this season, after all, and has appeared in more than 90 percent of his team's games in 12 separate seasons — but eventually Celtics coach Doc Rivers is going to have to break the bad news to his veteran non-center.

If it becomes obvious the Celtics cannot drastically improve their playoff seed or lose their playoff berth altogether, there is a "very good chance" Rivers could rest some of the more seasoned or hobbled members of the Celtics' roster.

"The problem, without saying the name, is one of the guys you would suggest sitting, it's not fun to get him to do that," Rivers said prior to Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz. "The conversation is no fun. Maybe he'll see that and maybe he won't, but that would be an interesting discussion."

Sometime in the coming weeks, it is likely that the Celtics' playoff fate will become more obvious. They entered Friday tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division, which would mean a top-four Eastern Conference playoff seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Celtics lost the first two of their three meetings with the Sixers this season, however, which gave Philadelphia the first tiebreaker. The Celtics therefore have to finish with a better record than the Sixers to earn that top-four seed.

Rivers would rather be in the Chicago Bulls' position — four games ahead of their nearest competitor in the standings and cruising along while reigning MVP Derrick Rose is sidelined indefinitely with a strained groin — but a 4-8 start to the season eliminated that possibility.

The fourth seed would be a treasured asset, but it would not mean much if the Celtics had to burn out one of their veterans or over-extend center Greg Stiemsma, who has to be patched together from spare parts like Frankenstein (FrankenStiemsma?) after every game.

"At the end of the day, if it came down to seeding or health, I'd choose health," Rivers said. "You would rather have a better seed, but you can go wherever you want and if you're not healthy it doesn't matter anyway, especially with us."

Garnett might never be keen on missing a game, but he may not be as averse to it as Rivers fears. The 17-year veteran mentioned after the Utah game that he has been "looking in the mirror," giving himself "a true assessment" of his skills and his role. One thing Garnett may have realized in his self-reflection is that, after more than 45,000 minutes on an NBA court, he could use some extra rest now and then.

Or maybe not. Good luck with that conversation, Doc.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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