Collins keeping himself ready to go for Celtics

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Collins keeping himself ready to go for Celtics

BOSTON With Chris Wilcox (back) out indefinitely and Darko Milicic nursing a right wrist injury for at least another game, it's time for the Boston Celtics to put their big man insurance policy to use.

And the name of that policy is Jason Collins.

The veteran big man saw his most extensive action of the preseason in Boston's 97-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

He played 15 minutes and tallied a preseason-high five points.

When Collins signed on with the C's, he knew his chances to play would be few and far between.

But that has no impact on his approach to every game.

"I'm a professional," he said. "I know, always stay ready. Even going into the last three minutes of a game, it doesn't matter. My job as a professional is always be ready. And when your name is called, be ready."

Having been in the NBA in what will be his 12th NBA season, the C's are familiar with what Collins can and cannot do.

"When he comes out there he's going to rebound, he's going to set picks," said Celtics assistant Armond Hill. "He's a guy you don't have to call anything for, but he's going to do all the little things. He's going to do all the dirty work, really. So he's valuable."

Boston's Paul Pierce said his former teammate and current Comcast SportsNet analyst Brian Scalabrine used to talk about Collins in glowing terms when Scalabrine and Collins were teammates in New Jersey.

"Scal always bragged about him," Pierce said. "He thought Collins was the best post defender in the NBA. He's a solid veteran. He's not going to be asked to play big minutes for us, but he's a true professional. He's in the gym, staying ready. He's in the gym; he's keeping his body in shape. He's going to be called upon at some point in the season, some big minutes for us. We know he can be a solid contributor for us."

It was certainly that way in Atlanta last season. After spending the bulk of the season sidelined, injures force the Hawks to put him in the starting lineup in the playoffs against Boston.

"It's just one of those things where you never know what's going to happen," Collins said. "The team, through the course of regular season, playoffs . . . your name might be called. When it is, you have to go out there and make plays.

Collins' ability to help out when called upon is in part because of his basketball wisdom, the kind that comes after having spent more than a decade in the NBA.

And it's clear to Collins that having a relatively high basketball IQ seems to be the norm -- and not the exception -- in Boston.

"This is the highest basketball IQ team that I've ever been a part of," Collins said. "Usually, there's maybe one or two. But we have a lot of guys on this team who have high basketball IQs."

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

The Eastern Conference playoff race, seemingly altered by the moves -- and non-moves (hello there, Celtics) -- of some of the contenders, just took another twist.

The Raptors, bolstered by the acquisition of Serge Ibaka and appearing poised to make a run toward the top of the standings after a come-from-behind victory over the Celtics on Friday, were hit with a body blow Monday when it was announced All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry needs surgery on his right wrist and may miss the remainder of the regular season.

ESPN reports Lowry is expected to be sidelined from four to eight weeks. Toronto hopes to have him back for the playoffs.

The Raptors are currently in fourth place in the conference at 35-24, trailing Cleveland (40-17), Boston (38-21) and Washington (34-23). Without Lowry, and facing a rough, six-of-their-next-seven-games-on-the-road stretch, Toronto may stop focusing on catching the Wizards and/or Celtics and focus on holding off Atlanta (32-26) in order to hold onto home-court in the first round.

Lowry, 30, who missed the last two games because of the injury, is averaging a career-best 22.8 points per game. He also is averaging 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds.

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder isn't backing down.

The Atlanta Hawks point guard again was asked about Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, and the budding rivalry between the two players that's turned into a rivalry between the two teams. Thomas, of course, was accused by Schroder of taking his trash talking a bit too far during the teams' last meeting, a 103-101 Celtics victory last month in which Thomas hit the game-winning shot with just seconds remaining.

Thomas' comments allegedly were about Schroder's family, per Schroder himself. Thomas has since repeatedly denied the claims. So does Schroder still deny Thomas' side of the story?

“I mean, yeah. Everybody heard it, too," Schroder said. "My family sat courtside too. And (Hawks teammate) Thabo (Sefolosha) heard some things, you know, and he was involved in it. But it is what it is. Like I said, we just try to compete. And you know, it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is."

Schroder didn't dive much deeper than denying Thomas' claims of innocence. But is there something about Thomas inparticular that gets under Schroder's skin or runs him the wrong way?

Nah, I mean he’s a great player, he’s showing it this year," Schroder said. "I mean, what he did in the playoffs last year was just not, you know, professional. And I think nobody wants to see that but it’s fine. We just try to compete and try to help our team win the basketball game."

Schroder was referring to the back-and-forth physical play between himself and Thomas that resulted in flagrant fouls for both during the first-round playoff matchup betweein the clubs, a series Atlanta eventually won four games to two. Thomas' status was in doubt for Game 4 of the series after a hit to Schroder's head in Game 3, but the now two-time All-Star ultimately was allowed to play.

"Everybody’s competitive. Everybody tries to get out, get after it," Schroder explained when asked if his feud with Thomas fuels his team any extra. "I think it’s a big game tonight and the team knows it. I’m pretty sure the Celtics know it too. It’s getting close to the playoffs and every game counts."

Boston and Atlanta tip off from TD Garden at 7:30 p.m.