WALTHAM - When asked yesterday what he wanted for Christmas, coach Doc Rivers said, laughing, “A 7-footer.’’
While a 7-footer doesn’t appear likely, at least in the near future, the Celtics might be getting a player to add to their rotation, Mickael Pietrus. The 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound Pietrus agreed to a buyout with the Suns and is now in the NBA’s two-day waiver period (which would expire at 6 p.m. today) before deciding whether to accept Boston’s offer.
“He would be great,’’ Rivers said. “He would be a good addition for any team. He would be athletic. He would bring us some toughness. He can guard the 2s and the 3s. He can stretch the floor. Whoever gets him will be getting a heck of a player, if he’s healthy.’’
Barring a waiver claim, Pietrus it seems will accept the minimum contract offer from the Celtics and back up Paul Pierce, helping the Celtics recover from the loss of Jeff Green for the season.
“I think Mike likes the Celtics very much and likes that option very much,’’ said Pietrus’s agent, Bill McCandless. “I guess we’ll open up the present tomorrow at 6:30. There’s one team that was interested in trading for him and it did come down to the wire. I think there’s a 15 percent chance of a waiver claim.’’
McCandless said four teams are interested in the 29-year-old Pietrus, who was nearly traded to the Raptors. That deal fell through because of concerns over a swollen knee. According to an NBA source, Pietrus is not completely healthy but should be fully recovered from knee surgery in about two weeks.
Pietrus, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2003 draft, averaged 7.4 points in 38 games with the Suns last season after being traded from Orlando. The Celtics, meanwhile, have an open roster spot after making three cuts on Thursday.
“He loves Doc,’’ McCandless said of Pietrus. “They know each other. They speak when they see each other. It’s not like he doesn’t know the head coach.’’
If the Celtics acquire Pietrus, they apparently would not shy away from using him immediately, even though he would not have practiced with the team.
“I don’t think we have any choice this year,’’ Rivers said. “Usually if you did add a player, you would probably have a practice. Anyone who gets a player this year at any point off a trade, it’s going to be just throw him in the fire and figure it out. I think that’s the year we’re going to have this year.’’
Pierce did not practice again yesterday, and it appears unlikely he will play in tomorrow’s season opener against the Knicks because of a bruised right heel.
“He seems to be working more, as far as working out,’’ Rivers said. “We’ll see. I still think it’s doubtful, but we’ll see.’’
If Pierce is able to play - and then he would be limited to 15 or 20 minutes - he almost certainly would not start. Instead, the Celtics would start Sasha Pavlovic, who has been practicing with the first team. That would keep Marquis Daniels with the second unit.
“He looks good,’’ Rivers said of Pavlovic. “It’s easier with the first unit. I don’t want him to be so aggressive that he’s turning the ball over. He can really defend. I think the more comfortable he gets, the better.’’
Ahead of the game
Rivers said the defense of the second unit is “way ahead’’ of where it was last year. He said that the biggest difference has been in athleticism, led by Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox . . . Jermaine O’Neal, whom Rivers has praised throughout the preseason, said he feels more comfortable with the Celtics this season, after struggling to get on the floor last season because of injuries. “Last year I was kind of behind the gun,’’ O’Neal said. “I ended up being hurt the second or third day of training camp and ended up missing some of the schemes that they were putting in. I never really caught up. I had to deal with trying to catch up, trying to physically get healthy. That was tough. Now I feel healthy, I feel strong. I feel like I know what I’m doing out there. It’s just key. In professional sports, if you don’t know the system, you’re going to struggle.’’