Aching back keeps Bird out of Bullets exhibition


BROOKLINE, Mass. -- Larry Bird was missing when the Boston Celtics headed for Buffalo, N.Y., and last night's preseason game with the Washington Bullets. Bird's aching lower back kept him in Boston for physical therapy, and he will also miss tonight's exhibition against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Toronto.

Bird's back sprain/strain is taking longer to heal than originally anticipated, and the Boston Celtics medical staff felt that although he could play over the weekend, his time will be better spent with physical therapy consultant Dan Dyrek, who has worked with him in the past.

Bird, who played 28 minutes in Boston Garden against Denver Wednesday and recorded a triple-double in the 158-135 Boston victory, did not practice Thursday at Hellenic College and just shot a few easy layups.

"I've had this for three weeks," Bird said. "It's getting better, but it's not healing. Usually, something like this takes two weeks to heal. They don't want me going into the season with the problems I'm having now, so they told me to take off a couple of days.

"Most of my problem is in the morning and at the first practice. In the afternoons, it starts feeling pretty good, but it's not something I want to go into the season with. I'm a little concerned because it's lasted three weeks and it's never lasted this long before."

Bird has had back problems in the past. "Some days you just can't bend over and some days you just can't straighten up," he said. "It's getting better, though, a lot better than when I first walked into camp."

Bird said he expects and wants to play in the final exhibition Monday night in Providence, R.I., against Utah. "I wanted to go on this trip because I'm getting in pretty good shape, but they want to do [the treatment] now and not have to take off time next week [the regular-season opener is Friday]," he said. "I can play with it, but if it gets any worse, it could be a month."

Coach Chris Ford said the weekend layoff is strictly a precaution.

"He'll be ready to go when we get back," Ford said.

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