Celtics Using Final Week of Preseason to Rest, Get Healthy

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Celtics Using Final Week of Preseason to Rest, Get Healthy After the grind of last week for these Boston Celtics, what lies ahead is a period of relative ease. Last week brought five games over seven days in five different cities; now the C's are rewarded for their hard work. This week brings rest, relaxation and only one preseason game.

"This is a good time for us," Paul Pierce said. "We're at home for the next week and a half. It's time for us to sharpen our tools and just get ready for the last preseason game and then the opener. That's right around the corner."

The final preseason tilt for these Celtics comes Wednesday night, when they take the floor at the TD Garden against the New Jersey Nets. The C's have started this preseason 6-1, and they've got a chance to finish with one of the strongest exhibition records in the NBA. But as it turns out, the team doesn't have lofty expectations for Wednesday's finale.

"Not a lot," coach Doc Rivers said. "For us, just simple execution, things that we should already know at this point. And for the younger guys, just minutes. They just need to play."

For the most part, this week is about health. The Celtics been overly cautious with their players, young and old alike, whenever the slightest injury has crept up. The health problems have continued to plague them this week — Delonte West will miss Wednesday's game with back spasms, and Jermaine O'Neal has battled hamstring, back and wrist ailments that will keep him out of action as well. It's unsettling, but the Celtics are addressing the problem.

"We've got to get everybody back on the court at the same time," Pierce said. "We've got a few nagging injuries that we're taking care of. I think it's good that we're getting them all out of the way now. A couple of guys are sitting out, and hopefully by the middle or end of this week we can get everybody back on the court and sharpen our tools. Go through the plays, go through what we do on defense, so we're ready.

"But we're right on schedule, I believe. Just the way things have been going, the way we've been playing, the way we've been practicing, I'd be confident about opening day if it started today."

The C's have been racking up the wins this month without even trying. They're doing a lot of things right — executing well on offense, sharing the ball, playing airtight team D — but their focus has never been on winning these preseason games in the present. It's been on the future, on the process of building toward this season.

"We have a long ways to go, and this is a process," assistant coach Lawrence Frank said. "I don't think you're a complete product by the first game of the season — I think it's a process that takes place over the course of time. And if any group proved that, it's this group last year — getting off to a great start, then having injuries, then being able to play all the way to Game 7 and be right there.

"It's a process, and you continually want to get better," Frank added. "I think there's different gears and different layers that you go through as the season evolves. You don't want to be at your peak on Oct. 26. You want to continue to get better. There's a lot of fine-tuning, there's still some introduction, and you focus on the process and continue to get better over the course of the season."

The players have sung the same tune. Young, old and everywhere in between, they're focused on the bigger picture. No matter what happens Wednesday night when the Nets visit Boston for the first time this season, the Celtics' emphasis will be on the grand scheme of this season.

"We've just got to keep it going and get better every day," Shaquille O'Neal said. "Stick to the script. If we can do that, we'll be fine. Sometimes the script can go perfect, and sometimes a lot of pages are unsupervised. But as long as you stick to the script, the ending is usually in your favor."

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