The Boston Celtics have already decided that barring a dramatic reversal in his recovery, Bill Walton's name will be on their playoff roster.

The more immediate question is whether Walton will be able to justify that inclusion solely by virtue of his reputation. In other words, can the Celtics expect to see Walton in game conditions before the season ends?That question may have been answered in a large part last Tuesday. Walton participated in a simulated game, as the Celtics scrimmaged for four eight-minute quarters.

Walton looked fit. He set picks, blocked shots, rebounded, shot about 90 percent from the field and, when he wasn't tired, looked ready to go. He even picked up a technical foul from assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers, prompting Danny Ainge to quip, "How can you pick up a technical foul in practice?"

As usual, no one is setting any return date for Walton, but if there is no regression Walton could be activated for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then again, he may wait. The Celtics are not pushing him, but, as General Manager Jan Volk said Tuesday, "There will come a time, hopefully soon, when there will be little more to be gained by just practicing."

Would that time come before the end of the season?

"Ideally, you'd like to have that opportunity," Volk said. "We'd prefer he be back before the playoffs, both for his re-acclimation and for the opportunity to play with new players. But any decision will be a joint one based on information only he can provide. Only he knows when he's ready. But he has been progressing and is feeling better about it."

It has been 41/2 weeks since Walton resumed practicing, and while there have been minor setbacks, there has been nothing severe.