Sick Paul Pierce misses practice

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Just when it seemed like the Boston Celtics' roster couldn't possibly be thinned any further, captain Paul Pierce sat out Wednesday's practice due to illness and, while coach Doc Rivers expects him to play Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, it was the latest setback for a Boston squad suddenly desperate for healthy bodies.

The Celtics operated with a 10-man practice session as Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal (inflamed Achilles), Jermaine O'Neal (left knee surgery), Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) and Semih Erden (right adductor strain) were all absent. All but Pierce have been ruled out for Thursday's game.

On the more encouraging side, reserve guard Delonte West engaged in his first full-contact practice since fracturing his right wrist in mid-November and, despite lobbying Rivers and the training staff to let him play as early as Thursday, the team is still targeting a return later in the month.

"We don't worry about body count," said Rivers. "[The Lakers are] not going to worry about the body count, I can guarantee you that. We'll be ready, we'll be fine."

But Rivers admitted that, after operating without a pure swingman Wednesday and dangerously thin at center, the team will be tested moving forward.

"Size will come into play at some point [Thursday], but, listen, we have what we have," said Rivers. "We're going to line it up against whatever they have and see who wins the game."

While normally all the focus on the day before a Celtics-Lakers matchup would be on the rivalry, Boston seemed more concerned about its own backyard, almost resigned to the fact that the Lakers are simply the next team on the schedule (when a visit from, say, Cleveland might be more welcomed). But the Celtics also aren't feeling sorry for themselves and those players who are healthy promised to be ready for the matchup.

"We just gotta get it done," said Glen Davis. "Things happen, players get hurt. You gotta keep going. That's why you have 15 people on the roster."

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge reiterated that it will be another week before the team gets a better grasp on the prognosis of Daniels and admitted that leaves the team in a bind in the interim.

"I think we're thin [at the 3] now without Marquis and without Delonte," said Ainge. "If we had Delonte and Von to play, we'd be fine. But Delonte is back soon. He practiced full today, he's probably another two or three weeks away from playing in games. Sometime after the break. But all the injuries, we feel like Jermaine and Shaq and Semih and Delonte will all be back the second half of the season and Marquis is up in the air."

Almost out of necessity, West engaged in full-contact drills for the first time since fracturing his right wrist in a cringe-worthy spill against the New Jersey Nets in mid-November. But West said he felt surprisingly good on the court and made a Kendrick Perkins-like effort with Rivers and the training staff to let him play as early as Thursday.

So far he's been rebuffed.

"Obviously, with Marquis going down and Paul out today, I had to get on out there, probably sooner than I expected," said West. "I definitely surprised myself. I was able to go full contact; I got down there, scrapped around with big guys. My conditioning was there, but my timing was a little off.

"I felt pretty good. If it was up to me, I'm confident in playing [Thursday]. But [coaches] said my timing was off and my familiarity with the plays wasn't 100 percent. I guess in a game like [Thursday], we need 'fo shos' out there. I want to go [Thursday], I'm confident and I stressed that to the trainers, Ed Lacerte, and Doc, but I think they want to stick with the plan and get me a few more days of practice."

West said he'd like to return before the All-Star break if the coaches and medical staff will allow him.

West deemed himself "85 percent" right now, and cautioned that he might not be back to 100 percent for six months as he endures some leftover discomfort in the surgically repaired area. West's wrist was taped at practice and had a small brace over it, and he said he would most likely use a similar method of protection once he starts playing in games again.

"I still can't fully rotate my wrist all the way around," West admitted. "There's still a lot of pain in there. But that doesn't mean the bone isn't healed. It doesn't mean I'm not going to be able to play. I just have to deal with some discomfort for a few months."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.