It was positive injury news all around for the Celtics, who will also have Shaquille O'Neal (right adductor strain) and Semih Erden (groin pull) active in their frontcourt. O'Neal slipped on some ice on his way to the team's practice facility Sunday and sat out that day's practice, while Erden has been limited recently by a groin pull. Reserve swingman Marquis Daniels, who suffered what Rivers termed a "back stinger" running into a hard pick from Kendrick Perkins during Sunday's practice, also is available off the Boston bench.
But the pregame buzz centered on Garnett's return. Rivers said he won't limit Garnett's minutes coming off the absence.
"We were only going to bring him back if he was right," Rivers said. "He’s pretty much free to play now."
Shaq's minutes, on the other hand, will be monitored closely.
"There’s always a minute limit on Shaq and he went over it the other night," Rivers said after O'Neal logged a whopping 35 minutes, his biggest output since April 2009 with Phoenix. "But again, we'll just see how it goes."
Rivers suggested Garnett could have returned Friday night against Charlotte, but some extra days of rest, as well as a full practice Sunday, gave both player and team the assurance that he's fully ready to get back on the floor.
Garnett's return will allow forward/center Glen Davis, the team's sixth man, to slide back into a reserve role, bolstering a bench that's been up and down this season because of all the injuries.
--VAN GUNDY ON THE RETURN OF KG; ADDITION OF RONDO--
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the return of Garnett will be a boon for Boston's frontcourt, but suggested that having Rajon Rondo, who was absent during the team's Christmas Day meeting in Orlando, might be a bigger boost during this rematch.
"I think, first of all, they have more size when [Garnett's] there," Van Gundy said. "He's a great defender, anyway, and then he brings a lot of size to the table. They're a lot bigger. I think [Glen] Davis is a very good defender also, but not quite as long, and I think Kevin's length is huge for them defensively.
"[Rondo is] certainly, if not the best playmaker in the league, certainly one of them. They put the ball in his hands, let him make a lot of plays. He runs the show for them, gets the ball to people, keeps them organized, gets in the paint, and obviously [he's] a very good and very disruptive defender, too."
The Celtics' offense went stagnant at the start and finish of the holiday showdown and the Magic closed out the first meeting of the season on a 15-1 run to overcome a 12-point, second-half deficit. Boston shot a cringe-worthy 34.6 percent from the floor (a season low) while making only 28 field goals. A healthy Rondo should go a long way toward boosting those numbers in the rematch.
--J.O'NEAL IN NEW YORK FOR SECOND OPINION--
Rivers confirmed that reserve center Jermaine O'Neal trekked to New York on Monday to receive another opinion on his ailing left knee, which has sidelined him for 22 games this season.
"What I think will happen is he'll get some information then bring it back," Rivers said. "And [team physician] Dr. [Brian] McKeon, [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and J.O. will talk and come to a conclusion."
Rivers said Sunday he thinks that unless O'Neal can find a doctor that can operate and get him back on the court before the playoffs the 32-year-old center will elect to follow a non-surgery path and play with the pain and limitations of the sore knee the rest of the season.
Greg Payne, a student intern for ESPNBoston.com, contributed to this report.