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MavsFanFinley
04-18-2002, 07:56 PM
Celtics center Vitaly Potapenko to miss first round of playoffs
By JIMMY GOLEN

AP Sports Writer
April 18, 2002

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -- Vitaly Potapenko, Boston's backup center who injured his left knee in a meaningless game on the last night of the regular season, will miss the first round of the NBA playoffs against Philadelphia -- and perhaps more.

Potapenko has a partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament and will be out for 10 days to two weeks, ``to be most optimistic,'' coach Jim O'Brien said after practice on Thursday, a day after Potapenko limped off in an 89-81 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

The Celtics could not rule out surgery, though they were hoping the knee could be rehabbed without it. A fully torn ACL requiring surgery typically takes a year to recover from.

``We're hoping to have him ready for a future playoff series,'' O'Brien said.

The best-of-5 series against the 76ers, which begins in Boston on Sunday, is the Celtics' first playoff appearance since 1995. If Boston beats Philadelphia, the second round could begin as early as May 4.

Potapenko was injured Wednesday when he landed wrong after jumping in the third quarter, and he did not return to the game. He said afterward that he was merely stiff, but an MRI exam showed the tear.

He limped across the court after practice was over on Thursday, and some of his teammates went to him to try to cheer him up.

``This is the worst timing -- the last game of the season,'' said Potapenko, who made one playoff appearance, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in 1998. ``I'm mad a little bit because I can't help the team.''

O'Brien bristled before Wednesday's game when a reporter described it as unimportant, but afterward he admitted Potapenko's injury made him rethink his decision to go all out for the victory. He sat most of his starters for the fourth quarter.

``It's tough to play a game without getting people knocked around,'' O'Brien said, ``especially when you want to win.''

Though not a feared scoring threat or intimidating shot-blocker, Potapenko could clog up the middle and tire out opposing centers. He averaged 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds this season, starting nine games in which Boston went 8-1.

``What 'V' brought us was a real big body to wear other guys down,'' said Antoine Walker. ``It's going to be a physical series, and it's a huge loss for us.''

Tony Battie started 73 games at center and averaged 6.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Boston also has Mark Blount, who averaged 2.1 points per game and one foul every seven minutes.

Another option is for forward Rodney Rogers to play center and Walker to play power forward.

Walker, who is nursing a sprained left thumb, sat out the Atlanta game -- the first game he's missed all season. He injured the thumb several weeks ago and aggravated it against Minnesota on Monday night in the second-to-last game of the season.

Asked if he would be ready to play on Sunday, he said the question was ``pointless.''

``I'm going to play,'' said Walker, who did not make the playoffs in his first five years in the league. ``It doesn't really matter how I feel.''[i]

Drbio
04-18-2002, 08:56 PM
You have to hate to hear about injuries in meaningless games....

MFFL
04-19-2002, 08:38 AM
That's a shame - it would have been nice if Boston could beat Philly, but now who is going to keep Mutombo off of the boards?