Celtics, Doc Rivers Should Get Tough With Paul Pierce, Hold Him Out of All-Star Festivities

Celtics, Doc Rivers Should Get Tough With Paul Pierce, Hold Him Out of All-Star Festivities In an injury-plagued season for the Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce has been a rock.

The captain has played in all 53 games, averaging 36.1 minutes (second only to Rajon Rondo's 37.7) and a team-leading 18.6 points per game. He's chipped in on the glass with 5.0 rebounds per game (best among non-big men), and his .496 field-goal percentage is better than any regular-season mark he's had in his 13-year career (and that's even with the 0-for-10 against the Heat on Sunday).

While Rondo may be the driving force behind the Eastern Conference's best team, the Celtics wouldn't be where they are without Pierce.

That's why, as much as Pierce won't like it, the team needs to hold him out of this weekend's All-Star festivities.

Pierce was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad for the ninth time, and like any star, he's excited. He's looking forward to competing against Ray Allen in the 3-point contest on Saturday night, and he's looking forward to playing with the cream of the NBA crop in his hometown of Los Angeles.

While all that may be swell for Pierce, the Celtics are paying him close to $14 million this season to help win a championship. As harsh as it sounds, they're not paying him that money to make him happy this weekend, and the team's main concern at all times should be what's best for the team.

The concern is warranted. It was two years ago that Kevin Garnett went down in Utah, his right leg giving out on him. That game was the first game out of the All-Star break, during which Garnett played 19 minutes for the East. The always-intense Garnett might have been the only one actually playing defense that day.

Garnett played just four games for the rest of the regular season. Everyone expected him back for the playoffs, until Danny Ainge dropped a bomb, telling the assembled media at practice that Garnett would not return for the playoffs. The Celtics made an impressive run, besting the Bulls in seven games before falling to Orlando in seven, but it was clear without their emotional and defensive leader that they weren't going to win a championship.

While you can't go back in time and play the what if game, you have to wonder. Ainge said that Garnett's injury wasn't a random occurrence, and that he had been dealing with a leg injury for weeks.

"KG had been playing with a sore leg for weeks before that Utah injury," Ainge said recently, according to ESPN.com. "That wasn't something that just happened. He had that bone spur on there for much longer before that Utah game."

Maybe a week off would have helped Garnett, maybe it wouldn't have, but playing in the All-Star game didn't help. There's no denying that. What Garnett gained that weekend in Phoenix was a fun time, some laughs and 19 minutes in the most meaningless of meaningless contests. Did it cost him the rest of the season? Probably not, but it didn't get him any healthier.

Two years later, maybe Pierce's foot injury isn't serious, but Doc Rivers stated this week that he's concerned about the captain's hand injury.

"That's the one to me that may take longer," Rivers said of the hand injury after Monday's practice. "When you play basketball, the chances of you not getting hit on the hand are pretty bleak. I've had those. You just hope you can get through a four-game stretch without anybody hitting it. … For precaution, just so nobody kicks him or hits him, we're not going to practice him [Tuesday]."

If the Celtics are concerned enough to hold him out of practice, then he probably should sit out Wednesday's contest against the Nets and let his injuries heal. The Celtics don't play again until Feb. 22 at Golden State, which would give him more than a week of rest.

Three games later, on Feb. 28, the C's are back in Utah, the site of Garnett's devastating injury in 2009. It would be a rather gloom-and-doom outlook to think that Pierce would suffer the same fate, but Garnett's history should serve as a lesson to the Celtics this time around.

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Monday, Feb. 14: KG is the Celtics' MVP.

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