Infectious behavior: How Paul Pierce's knee infection will affect the Celtics

Thursday, December 24, 2009

First, news came - out of nowhere, might I add - that Kevin Garnett would miss Tuesday night’s game against Indiana for a bruised thigh, or strategic rest, or whatever it was. Then news came - out of nowhere, might I add - that Paul Pierce would miss up to two weeks with a knee infection. Now, Garnett - who was originally expected to return for the game in Orlando on Christmas Day - is only a “game-time decision” for Friday’s game.

What’s next? Rajon Rondo gets a hernia? Kendrick Perkins gets a severe case of migraine headaches? Ray Allen gets beaten by his wife for his obscenely sexual tweet last night (which he says was written by a hacker)? (Note: Don’t know what the Tweet said? It’s a little too vulgar to post, but let’s just say it had something to do with a tongue and a woman’s private parts.)

Santa Claus came riding into Boston on his reindeers, and with him he brought a slew of injuries and bad luck. Thankfully for Boston, it’s in December rather than June.

No matter what time of the year KG and Pierce go down, though, they will be sorely missed. We already saw the effects of KG missing games during last season’s playoffs; without Garnett, the Celtics can still score in bunches, but they struggle to get stops and they struggle to maintain their energy. Rarely does one player affect a team’s play so drastically, but Garnett is an exceptional player. Even while he struggles to return to his pre-injury form (last season’s injury), Garnett helps the Celtics in so many ways. He’s their sparkplug, their heart and their soul… and it doesn’t hurt that he’s shooting 56.3% from the field.

Still, as much as they miss Garnett when he’s forced to sit, the Celtics will likely miss Paul Pierce even more. You might think I’m wrong, but hear me out: When Garnett goes down, the Celtics can plug four-time All-Star Rasheed Wallace into the lineup. With Pierce down, the Celtics will now likely play long-time scapegoat Tony Allen as starter. (I know Tony is playing very solid basketball of late, but…) With TA in the starting five and Marquis Daniels already on the injured list, the Celtics quality bench is suddenly incredibly thin.

By osmosis, Pierce’s injury will affect just about everyone on the entire team, and here’s how…

Rajon Rondo - At first glance, it might not seem like Rondo will be affected too much by Pierce’s absence; after all, Pierce is a small forward and his sitting won’t affect Rondo’s minutes one bit. But Rondo tends to base his game on his surrounding players; With the Big Three completely healthy and spry, he likes to take a backseat role and direct the offense with pinpoint passing. In last season’s playoffs, without KG, Rondo - by necessity - became more of a scorer. With Pierce in street clothes rather than his uniform, look for Rondo to shoulder more of the scoring load.

Ray Allen - Depending on how Doc decides to divvy out Pierce’s minutes, Ray could be the starter most drastically affected by Pierce’s absence. Simply put, his minutes could skyrocket. If Doc doesn’t give one -- or more -- of the young guys a chance, Ray could be forced to log a ton of minutes. Doc almost always likes to put either Ray or Paul out there with the second unit and now, with Paul recovering from his infection, the burden falls solely to Ray’s shoulders… unless Doc makes the smart decision of keeping Allen’s minutes lower and giving the young guys a shot.

Kendrick Perkins, Shelden Williams - I’m trying to decide how Perkins and Williams will be affected by Pierce’s time off and, well, it’s just not coming to me. Maybe Perk will scowl a little more than usual?

Kevin Garnett - Just like Rondo, KG will have to shoulder a heavier load. Will he be able to on that bum knee of his?

Brian Scalabrine - For the first time this season, Scal will be more than a towel-waver. There’s been talk about Scal possibly starting at small forward, but I’m here to tell you that is NOT a good idea. Can you imagine Scal trying to guard Vince Carter tomorrow? Or even Mickael Pietrus, or Matt Barnes? Because I can’t, and I would never want to.

Tony Allen - Allen stands to gain the most from Pierce’s infection; he’s the player who will probably step into the starting rotation, and he’s the one who will see the biggest boost in minutes. In previous years, the hearing Tony Allen will be relied on heavily would have made me cry for hours. Now, I’m still going to cry… just not for quite so long. Allen has played well recently, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt… until, that is, he goes on a turnover rampage at the worst possible time.

J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker, Lester Hudson - One of the young guys will likely see some significant time. Maybe all of them will. At the very least, they should finally get a chance to take their warmup jerseys off.

Eddie House - With Pierce’s injury, Eddie will see an increased role. Now, instead of standing in the corner and shooting threes for 16 minutes a game, he’ll stand in the corner and shoot threes for about 20 minutes a game.

Doc Rivers - Doc's the guy I'm most worried about; I'm pretty sure his neck is going to be sore after two weeks without Pierce. Why his neck? From constantly glancing to his side, looking for a viable option to put in the game. Guess what, Doc? There won't be any.

It's crazy how one simple little knee infection affects so many people.


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