Despite the fact that Troy Murphy hadn't been on an NBA court for nearly two months, Celtics coach Doc Rivers wanted to put him through a bit of a Boston basketball boot camp. He gave the 30-year-old forward a 15-minute tutorial during the team's pregame walkthrough Wednesday, then played coy about potential playing time, knowing full well he was going to thrust him into the fire if the situation allowed.
An early double-digit lead offered the perfect opportunity for heightened activity, but Rivers didn't have the heart to be a drill sergeant.
"[Murphy] looked good, but he was dying out there," Rivers said with a laugh. "And I was going to keep him out there for a while. I wanted to run him to the ground today, just get him used to things. But his lungs didn’t allow for that."
Murphy, who officially signed with the Celtics just hours before tip-off after clearing waivers following a buyout by the Golden State Warriors, logged 14 minutes, 11 seconds of action, missing all three shots he took, while chipping in one point and two rebounds. He got blocked on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter by Marcin Gortat, maybe the best indication that his legs simply aren't where he needs them to be.
But after tasting victory as part of a new championship-craving atmosphere, Murphy wasn't complaining. After all, he hadn't been on the court since Jan. 7 with the New Jersey Nets, where he appeared in a mere 18 games this season.
“Just rust, it’s been a whirlwind last couple days," Murphy said. "I’m excited to finally get underway here. I’m looking forward to practice [Thursday], and getting a practice under my belt. Each day I’m feeling like it’s going to get better."
Murphy admitted he had no clue about the offensive sets, looking to Rivers and the bench for guidance most times down the court.
"I pretty much didn't have any clue where to go," he admitted. "I stayed in the same spot half the time."
Glen Davis compared him to Rasheed Wallace (in a good way), noting he can spread the floor and shoot the trifecta. Doc Rivers is likewise encouraged by the brief debut and looks forward to really stretching his lungs in the coming days.
Rivers tried to take credit for luring Murphy to Boston, joking that it was a phone conversation Monday that sealed the deal.
"I'm a closer," Rivers joked. "No, that's not true. I don't know. He likes the way we play and we talked about that. He saw how we used other forwards who can shoot and liked the fact that we were aiming for one thing: That's to win a title. We're not trying to build, we're trying to win here and he understands that. He just really feels like he can help our team. That's important."
Added Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge: "Troy was our top guy -- of the guys bought out. Two things stood out: His 3-point shooting and his defensive rebounding. You watch our team play and our big guys get a lot of open shots, [Kevin Garnett] and Glen Davis. Those guys are mid-range shooters and we really don't have a 3-point shooter at any of our big positions. Troy can provide that."
--INJURY UPDATES: WEST BACK SUNDAY? SHAQ NEXT WEEK?--
Delonte West, who sat out his second straight game with a sprained right ankle suffered during an offday workout last week, is likely out for Friday's visit from the Golden State Warriors, but Rivers suggested he could be back on the floor in time for Sunday's game against Milwaukee.
Center Shaquille O'Neal, who has missed the last 11 games with an inflamed right Achilles and hasn't been on the court since Feb. 1, could return next week, according to Rivers.
O'Neal, who was working out in Florida during the Celtics' four-game road trip, has returned to Boston and Ainge expressed optimism after watching him in action the past two days.
"Shaq looks good, my concerns are lessened each day," Ainge said. "I've seen him work out the last two days and I'm very encouraged by what I see from Shaq."
O'Neal had a stack of books on reflexology gift wrapped in his locker at the Garden Wednesday. And while Ainge wouldn't put a timetable on his return, he offered a positive outlook on both Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal.
"I'm not worried. I think Shaq will be there, same thing with Jermaine," Ainge said. "I'm not sure when, I don’t have any time frames, but I'm not concerned about that. Really, whether they come back tonight or a week or two weeks from now, I'm concerned that they'll be there at the end. I'm very optimistic."
--LOOSE BALLS: (LATE) SHOTS FIRED; PIERCE ON THE REBOUND--
* Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry on Rajon Rondo's late-game shot, on which he got hammered by Jared Dudley, earning a three-shot foul with less than a second to play: "That’s no big deal, you play to win the game. You’re supposed to play for 48 minutes, he wanted to shoot and he shot it. I don’t see anything wrong with that. He’s supposed to play 48 minutes. There was 2 seconds or 4 seconds to go, you play 48 minutes. I don’t have a problem with that, I really don’t."
Rivers admitted Rondo's late-game attempt might have been an answer to chatter from the Phoenix bench that led to a late-game technical foul on Garnett.
"I thought [Rondo's late-game shot] was a function of the technical," said Rivers. "When he heard their bench talking. So I had no problem with it, honestly."
* Celtics captain Paul Pierce on hauling in a team-high 13 rebounds: "Tonight, I felt the need to [rebound]. We played a lot [of the offense] through Kevin, that was the game plan coming in. I just tried to do the other things. Doc coming in said Kevin should get 20 looks tonight, that’s the advantage we have. So I said, 'OK, let me see how I can get involved.' Getting rebounds and doing the other little dirty things for this team."