WALTHAM A key player is close to coming back, but a nagging injury keeps him sidelined.
The Boston Celtics went through this a year ago with Shaquille O'Neal, whose gimpy calf injury kept him off the floor for all but 12 minutes of the playoffs.
Boston seems to be dealing with a similar situation with Ray Allen, whose right ankle injury remains serious enough to keep him on the bench.
The Celtics had a rare practice on Monday, with Allen among those unable to participate.
"It's getting better slowly," said coach Doc Rivers. "Until it gets better, we're just going to sit him."
Allen has missed 13 games because of the injury, including the last seven.
On Monday, Allen said the ankle also has bone spurs that have added to the discomfort he has been feeling.
"The other day when it swelled," Allen said, "they say they could be the size of a grain of sand but they're not supposed to be in there so as they swell, they move around and as the swelling goes down, they rest."
Allen's availability remains a mystery for the Celtics, who will begin their playoff journey against Atlanta on either Saturday or Sunday.
Both Rivers and Allen said he will not play Tuesday against the Miami Heat, but there's a chance that Allen might see action on Thursday.
"Ray wants to play just to get some rhythm," Rivers said. "So if he can play Thursday, we'll play him. Not a lot, but we'll play him. But if not, then we'll wait until the playoffs."
For now, that seems so far away . . . too far away for Allen to be giving it much thought right now.
"Today is Monday, and Tuesday we'll go at it and see where we're at Wednesday," Allen said. "Over the last week, it swelled on me in moments where I don't think it should have. We don't know why; just try to take it one day at a time."
He has experienced his ankle swelling inexplicably too many times to assume that he'll be good to go in another day or two.
"In New York (on April 17th) I went through shootaround," Allen recalled. "And that afternoon, it swelled. I didn't do anything; I didn't turn or do anything detrimental. It just blew up. Next day I was dealing with it. for the last four or something days, I've been trying to get that swelling out of it so I can move it the right way. That's kind of where we are."