Celtics won't push injured Rondo

Mike Fine

Those who speak to Rajon Rondo every day know that he can be a man of few words, but when he joined coach Doc Rivers for a post-game news conference after the win over Portland on Wednesday, he knew he had to perform.

“I don’t talk a lot, but coach put pressure on me, so I had to perform,” Rondo said Thursday. That is, however, the most pressure he’ll get this week. Rivers will not exert pressure to get his starting point guard back into action while he deals with his back and right hamstring issues, which means he’ll probably be out of Friday’s Garden contest with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I’m trying to run and jump without any sharp pains,” said Rondo, who can live with Rivers’ decision.

“We’re just gonna wait. No rush,” Rivers said. “The other guys will make do.”

There’d been some thought that the Celtics were in trouble without Rondo. To be sure, Tony Allen and Eddie House aren’t exactly Globetrotte-resque in their dribbling abilities, but House got the job done well Wednesday, and this time he got an impressive backup job from little-used rookie Gabe Pruitt. In other words, they “made do.”

“Just pushing the ball up the court and getting into our offense fast,” House said. “Doc is always saying get it up the court so we can get into it as quick as possible. It’s a conscious effort. That’s what he wanted, so you go out and try to do your job. In the first quarter he got up and was like, ‘push it, push it,’ so, OK, and from that point on, every chance I got I pushed it and if Ray (Allen) or Paul (Pierce) got it they pushed and I just filled the lane.”

The beauty of the ball movement, House explained, was that the Celtics had a better chance to get their offense rolling. Against a Washington zone that forced two straight losses, the Celtics didn’t get the ball up the court, didn’t move the ball and were stagnant. It led to poor offense.

“You’ve got more time,” House said. “It gave us more opportunities to move the ball, different possibilities and different options. You’re just playing basketball and you have a lot more time to create than if you’re coming up with 14 seconds and you start your offense then.”

Rivers had gone with Tony Allen as Rondo’s starting replacement in two previous games that Rondo had missed, but that’s only because he likes House coming off the bench.

Either way, House says, is fine with him. “I approach every game the same way, the same focus,” House said. “I know my job’s not going to change if I’m starting or coming off the bench. Get the ball, get us in our offense, get the ball to our players that have the hot hand and take open shots when I have them. Regardless if I’m coming off the bench or starting, I’m same every game.”

House also says that he’ not stiff coming off the bench, as opposed to starting immediately after pregame warmups.

“That’s a good quality that I have. I can just come in and be an instant factor without having to get into the flow of the game. I think that extends back to my days in Miami where you’re thrown in a game at the end to try to give us a quick spark. My mindset is I have to do it right then and I just kept that with me throughout my career. I think that’s a good thing.”

Speaking of sparks, Pruitt shot only 1-for-6, but hit his first jumper shortly after entering the game. He had a couple of rebounds, an assist and a steal, and generally was strong on defense.

“I think he played excellent,” House said. “He came in and took the first shot that was open, made the right plays, played good defense. He had big minutes (12) and had a positive impact on the game.”

“I thought he played very well,” Rivers said. “He got us into our stuff for the most part. I thought defensively he’s starting to get it. That’s good. He didn’t get pressured at all. It’s tough to tell, to be in honest, in one game how your poise is. I thought he wasn’t panicked by the game or anything like that. I thought he just came in and played and that’s what he does.”

Pruitt was thrilled to get the call after having played in eight games previously, including 18 DND’s (did not dress), plus two stints in the NBDL (Utah).

“It felt pretty good to get out there and be with Kevin (Garnett), Ray and Paul and get a chance to run with them,” Pruitt said. “I guess the more reps I get with them, the better feel I get for the game.

“There were a couple of things I think I can improve on, but overall I thought it was a good effort, a good defensive effort. The shots I took I thought were good shots.”

Pruitt would like to do more of the same, but he knows once Rondo returns, he’s back to wearing a suit on game days.

“I realize that it’s a process,” he said. “It’s my first year. To come in expecting to play right off the bat with a team like this -- we have a lot of veterans, and obviously they’re going to get a shot first. I just felt like I have to work my way in and if you get a shot in practice and hopefully my time will come.”

The Series

The Sixers come in off a win over Houston, but they’d dropped eight straight before that. The last time the teams played, Dec. 5 at the Wachovia Center, the Celtics gave up 32 first-quarter points on 14-for-19 shooting, enabling them to take an 11-point lead and a 60-52 halftime lead. Then the Celtics made halftime adjustments and scored 62 second-half points, getting a huge 46-point boost from their bench, including 32 between House and Posey.

In the Spotlight

In losses to Chicago and San Antonio, center Samuel Dalembert came up with back-to-back 20-rebound games and he’s averaged 12.7 points and 13.6 rebounds over his last six games. “He’s just big,” said Rivers. “He does his role. He runs the floor extremely well. Sneak behind the defense they’ll throw some great lobs to him. He blocks shots, rotates well defensively. He’s a helluva defensive player and he’s become a better offensive player.”

The Patriot Ledger