Practice notes: JO returns with torn cartilage

WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics practiced Friday afternoon at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint:


Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who has battled hamstring, back, and hand issues during the preseason, returned to practice Friday after a week of inactivity and participated in the full session. Sporting a small brace over his left wrist, he revealed he tore cartilage there while taking a charge in the first quarter of exhibition win over the Toronto Raptors last Friday.

Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston

Jermaine O'Neal sported a small brace over his left wrist during Friday's practice."I wanted to get back at it and it felt pretty good today," said O'Neal. "I got a little wrap to keep [the wrist] stable, but I'm not worried about it."

O'Neal said he expects to be ready for Tuesday's season-opener against his former team, the Miami Heat, but coach Doc Rivers noted he's got some catching up to do in terms of learning the system. O'Neal, who missed four preseason games and many practices, spent extra time after Friday's session running through offensive sets with a hodgepodge of teachers (Rajon Rondo, Armond Hill, Ty Lue) and other new faces (Luke Harangody and Von Wafer).

"[O'Neal] went through the whole practice today, so that was good, but him and [Shaquille O'Neal] have a lot of work to do as far as getting all of our stuff down," said Rivers. "They're not going to get it overnight. I was more concerned health-wise."

Rivers remained noncommittal on determining a fifth starter, though it would seem likely that Shaq has the current edge given the amount of time he spent with the starters during the preseason. Jermaine O'Neal insists he doesn't care how it plays out.

"We don't compete for starting time, we're competing for the team," said Jermaine O'Neal. "We support each other, we challenge each other, just like everybody else... If you ask that question to me and Shaq, I honestly believe we don't care."


* Celtics guard Delotnte West participated in skeleton (non-contact) drills as he recovers from pain near his left glute that has lingered through the preseason. He got up extra shots after the session, but the team does not plan to rush him back giving his 10-game suspension to start the regular season.

* Celtics center Semiih Erden is nursing a sore shoulder, according to Rivers, who said the injury warrants attention, but it hasn't forced the rookie to the sideline. He worked with big man coach Roy Rogers for an extended session after a practice session that was more than two hours. "It hurts," said Rivers. "I don't actually know [how he injured it], but it's noting like [Kendrick Perkins' previous shoulder injury]. It is a problem, something we have to be concerned with."

Shaq invades a Turkish interview with Semih Erden.* A camera crew from Turkey was in town to interview Erden and got a pleasant surprise when Shaquille O'Neal, sporting jeans and a white tank-top (see picture at right), dropped in on the interview. Clearly Shaq's name resonates overseas as the crew all posed for pictures with the 15-time All-Star after the interview.

* Rivers said he has watched six of Miami's seven preseason games thus far (noting one featured so many reserves it was useless). But as much as Boston is preparing for the season-opener, Rivers noted he's also working in sets the team will utilize the next night against Cleveland. "Most of our practices will be about us," said Rivers. "Having said that, we will put stuff in each day, defensively, to be prepared for the first game -- the first two games, actually. We did some stuff defensively today on what Cleveland runs. That's the difference between the playoffs, where you can focus on one target, compared to the regular season, where you gotta focus on the first four games and get in all the stuff you might need."

* Rivers on how LeBron James' ability to play point guard affects opponents: "I don't know, but on film it looked pretty good. We'll find out Tuesday. Few teams can play that card -- actually they're the only one, though Atlanta can do it as well with Joe Johnson if he goes to the point guard spot as a big player. Very few players can do it, and do it well." James scored 38 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, but dished out only two assists in Miami's exhibition loss Thursday to the Hawks. "He's good," said Rivers. "Even at point guard he can score. I think he'll have big-scoring games and then he'll have nights where he has big assists. That's just how he'll be; That's who he is anyhow."