By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON It could have been worse - a lot worse.
Saturday's MRI results on Nenad Krstic's right knee came back negative, which means the 7-foot center's injury isn't nearly as serious as first feared.
Krstic suffered the injury in the second quarter of Boston's 107-97 win at San Antonio on Thursday. He came down awkwardly while running down the court, and was unable to return to action.
In fact, the Celtics have not ruled out him returning to action as early as Tuesday's game against Philadelphia.
Krstic has what team officials classify as a bone bruise on his right knee, and are listing him as day-to-day.
As far as when he'll return to action, that has yet to be determined.
When it comes to establishing a return date, bone bruises rank among the toughest injuries to get a read on.
Earlier this season, Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum had an MRI on his left knee that revealed a bone bruise.
The injury sidelined him for one game.
A couple years ago, former NBA guard Chucky Atkins also suffered a bone bruise injury that kept him sidelined for 14 games.
Krstic's injury becomes just the latest footnote to a season in which Boston's depth at the center position has been tested in ways no one saw coming.
It all began with Kendrick Perkins, now with Oklahoma City, suffering a torn ACL and PCL injury in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June.
With him out of action, the Celtics made a point of bolstering their frontcourt depth this past summer with the addition of Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O"Neal and rookie center Semih Erden.
Injuries limited both O'Neals all season, and Boston traded Perkins to the Thunder and Erden to the Cavs last month.
Jermaine O'Neal is back playing, but he's still a ways off from being able to contribute at a level him and the Celtics know they will need come playoff time.
In his first two games since returning from left knee surgery, O'Neal has been a solid contributor both as a rebounder and a defender - the two things he did well prior to getting hurt.
As for Krstic, his play has been up and down since coming to Boston, along with Jeff Green.
In his first nine games with the Celtics, he averaged 12.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 59.7 percent from the field. Since then, he has cooled off considerably.
In Boston's last 10 games, he's averaging just 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
While Krstic's strength has been his ability to stretch defenses with his shooting touch, the C's are more consumed by helping him catch on to the Celtic's way of doing things defensively.
During a recent game, he missed a defensive rotation and Doc Rivers gave him a serious tongue-lashing.
It wasn't because of the missed shot, but because Krstic allowed the missed shot to affect his concentration defensively.
"I told him at halftime, that's selfish to me," Rivers said. "That's thinking about your poor lay, instead of helping the team win. He's not trying to be selfish. He wants to do right so bad, that at times it takes him out of playing well."
That won't be an issue in the coming days, which Krstic will spend on the sidelines trying to get his body back into shape in order to contribute.