Painful stretch

Most athletes are creatures of habit and stick to pregame routines. For Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and forward Rasheed Wallace, those routines typically intersect when Wallace returns to the locker room following his on-court warm-up at the same time Rivers wraps up his pregame briefing with the media.

Wallace even uses the same cheap-laugh joke, typically chastising Rivers for clogging up the hallway outside the locker room and causing a fire hazard. Wallace loves to tell Rivers he's going to call the fire marshal.

When Wallace didn't stroll by before Monday night's game with the Atlanta Hawks, it was a clue that something was amiss. Ironically, Rivers had just told the media how proud he's been of his team and coaching staff for overcoming all the adversity they have faced -- particularly the troubles that often have cropped up minutes before tipoff.

A short time after Rivers wrapped up his Q&A session, Wallace returned to the locker room and told his coach that he couldn't play against the Hawks, becoming the latest member of Gang Green, an ailing group of Celtics that this month has included Kevin Garnett (hyperextended right knee), Rajon Rondo (sore left hamstring), Paul Pierce (right knee infection), Tony Allen (illness), Glen Davis (sprained right ankle, thumb surgery), Kendrick Perkins (food poisoning) and Eddie House (illness). Additionally, Marquis Daniels remains sidelined after undergoing thumb surgery last month.

"I'm just happy with the way we're competing," Rivers said before finding out about Wallace, who is expected to miss as much as a week with an injury to his forefoot, which prevents him from properly pushing off while jumping.

"We've had a lot of things thrown at us here in a short stretch -- injuries, illnesses -- and the fact that they're coming five minutes before gametime. Things like that are far more difficult for our staff and players."

While Rivers has stressed to his team that injuries are not to be used as a crutch, it's clear the Celtics take a great deal of pride in remaining competitive without all of their horses.

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