Why Darko Milicic's Wrist Injury Increases Pressure on Kevin Garnett

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Why Darko Milicic's Wrist Injury Increases Pressure on Kevin Garnett
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Boston Celtics added some valuable depth to their front line this summer, and now the only trick is ensuring it remains healthy.

It's too soon to make much of Darko Milicic re-aggravating a prior wrist injury, but we know he'll miss a few days at the very least (via ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg): 

It goes without saying this hardly qualifies as a disaster. Even if Milicic were a key component of coach Doc Rivers' rotation—which remains to be seen—it doesn't sound like he'll be missing much time. There's always a risk that injuries can become lingering problems, but there's not yet any reason to believe that's the case here, according to CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely:

Milicic told CSNNE.com that he would receive a cortisone shot tonight. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that Milicic would miss tonight's game against Brooklyn in addition to Thursday's game on the road against the Nets in Brooklyn.

"It'll be better after the shot," Milicic said.

Darko's assurance aside, his temporary absence highlights just how vulnerable this Celtics rotation remains, despite a summer in which the front office successfully upgraded Boston's backcourt depth and re-signed the previously sidelined Jeff Green, an important addition to the wing.

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Darko's biggest contribution will be allowing KG some added rest and the chance to avoid some of those center matchups.

But the center spot is a different story.

The Celtics were so desperate for a center when Jermaine O'Neal went down last season, that they turned to power forward Kevin Garnett to occupy the 5-hole, an arrangement that could very well remain in place even if Milicic stays healthy this season.

At 6'11", KG certainly has the length to handle most of this league's centers, but his frame is a bit more suited for quicker, more athletic 4s. As wiry-strong as Garnett is, he's not necessarily the guy you want muscling up to a body like Andrew Bynum.

More importantly, at 36-years-old, Boston is best served by limiting the number of times their iconic big man actually has to defend the post, battling for position and expending energy to push guys off the block.

Accordingly, WEEI.com's Paul Flannery reports that Rivers is already considering the possibility of moving Garnett back to power forward during stretches:

"We can slide Kevin over to the four to start games. The first half of the year I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, so Kevin doesn't have a wrestling match the entire season with the bigs," Rivers said. "There’s a lot of thoughts. We may go to a transitional starting lineup, have three different starting lineups. We’ve put a lot of thought into it, we’ll just figure it out."

In other words, the difference between a healthy Darko and the alternative is really the number of options Rivers has when deploying his lineups—options that have as much to do with Garnett's health as they do any strategic gains.

KG isn't a fan of playing the 5.

Were Milicic to be sidelined for any significant period of time, Garnett also becomes the lone shot-blocker on the roster outside of untested rookie Fab Melo.

Backup center Jason Collins hasn't averaged more than 0.9 blocks in any one season, and that was an outlier. Power forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger aren't the shot-swatting types either.

That means that in addition to handling the stresses of the post, Garnett would also be on call to patrol the lane and intimidate slashers looking to get to the basket. He'd continue to be this team's defensive anchor, a good thing in the short-term, but a potentially costly one when the postseason rolls around.

For now, the news surrounding Milicic's wrist isn't all that bad, and Garnett is hoping is it stays that way.

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