The Boston Celtics have more immediate concerns than whether Larry Bird will have back surgery in the off-season. If he's sidelined in the playoffs, that off-season may come
sooner than they want.His status for Friday night's NBA playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers was up in the air today.
Bird missed seven of the team's last eight regular-season games and sat out the first three days of practice this week. While his teammates scrimmaged Wednesday, he pedaled an exercise bike on a balcony overlooking the practice floor.
"Still day-to-day," Celtics coach Chris Ford said when asked Bird's playing status. "He's biking away. I don't know if he's halfway to the (Boston) Garden yet or not."
Ford's concern is getting Bird there in time for the start of the best-of-5 series whether he practices before it or not.
Celtics senior executive vice president Dave Gavitt said playing now wouldn't do any further damage to Bird's back.
"I don't think that the medical team or Larry or the Celtics are going to do anything relative to Larry playing that's going to cause any damage to him," Gavitt said.
"If that's the case, then he's not going to play, pure and simple. But it's not the case."
Whether Bird is available at the start of next season depends on whether he'll have back surgery and what type would be performed. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that he will have the operation and the Celtics are now making arrangements for it.
Gavitt denied that a final decision had been made.
"It hasn't been discussed and it's premature," he said. "If and when it is discussed, that will be a private conversation between Larry and his doctor.
"That's something that I don't think has to be shared with the world."
Bird missed 22 games this season because of back problems described as the compression of a nerve root. That resulted from a bulging disc, a swollen joint and a congenitally small opening in the spine, the Globe said.
Surgery "is all set," the Globe quoted an unnamed source as saying. "Larry didn't need much convincing. He's resigned to the fact he needs it."
He sat out seven consecutive games before returning for last Sunday's season-ending loss to Atlanta. Boston was 10-12 without him and 46-14 with him in the lineup.
While he didn't practice Wednesday, Bird smiled in conversation with Gavitt and Ford, joked with the media but refused to talk with reporters.
Boston guard Dee Brown said, "Larry's the type of player who can adapt to anything, so inserting him into the lineup is not going to be a big change on how we can play the game."
"He's in a lot of pain," Celtics center Joe Kleine said. "We just want him to get well, and if not playing will get him healthy, that's what we want."
If Bird, who will be 35 in December, does have surgery, the Celtics plan on playing without him at least until November or December, the Globe reported.
"I'm not a doctor," Ford said of the possibility of surgery. "I'm sure that's one of the options being considered."
But Gavitt emphasized that there are no definite plans for post-season back surgery and said he hasn't talked about it with Bird. Any conversations about surgery would be "privileged," he told reporters. "He has the right to his private life, like you do."