The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
--J.O'NEAL (KNEE) TO RESUME ON-COURT WORKOUTS MONDAY--
Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal will resume individual on-court workouts Monday with hopes of returning to full-team sessions next week, but he did not establish a timetable for returning to game action after sitting out the past month with lingering left knee soreness.
In returning to on-court activities, O’Neal is taking his biggest step forward since shutting himself down and, should all go well this week, expects to be cleared by Boston’s medical staff to engage in full-team exercises.
O’Neal has been sidelined since sitting out the second half of Boston’s loss to the Mavericks on Nov. 8. He’s missed 12 straight games, including Sunday’s tilt in New Jersey. For the season, he’s appeared in seven games (five starts), averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
“Basically, [the goal] is to go every day this week. I won’t travel with the team, but I’ll [work out] every day,” said O’Neal, noting he’ll also return to Boston's practice facility at nights for increased cardio work. “If I do well, then I’m cleared to practice next week. I’m really hoping to get back on the court with the guys.
“[The individual workouts] are the most important factor in determining when I play. Everything else is great -- the rehab itself, the strengthening and conditioning part. The noncourt activities have been going great.”
O’Neal admitted he's purposely disappeared from the eyes (and microphones) of reporters since leaving a Celtics' road trip to seek a second opinion in Miami after Boston’s win there on Nov. 11. Comfortable now with his diagnosis but still not revealing exactly what ails him, O'Neal has been working out off the court, strengthening the knee and the muscles around it with the goal of getting in position to be a contributor when the games matter most.
“That’s basically what all the doctors have said, you have to really let it get to 100 percent if you want any chance of finishing the season at a respectable level," said O'Neal. "We went down to Miami, had a great conversation with our doctors in Boston, the specialists in Miami, and our training staff. We came to some conclusions and they explained to me what the film said.”
O’Neal stressed that the health of his knee is important not just in the short term with the Celtics, but also for post-basketball life. Sunday marked the 14-year anniversary of his NBA debut (which was less than two months after his 18th birthday). He’s got a lot of miles on his tires and admitted from the time he signed a two-year deal with Boston in July that this might be the final stop on his NBA journey.
“I’m 32 years old now with a 4-year-old son that loves basketball,” said O’Neal. “I want to be able to live and still be able to be a really good father to him. I want to be able to play with him and do the things a father should do.”
O’Neal is balancing that with the side of him that is a competitive player who desperately craves getting back on the court. It's part of the reason he accompanied the team to New Jersey, getting a taste of the camaraderie he's missed.
As optimistic as O'Neal is, Celtics coach Doc Rivers shrugged off the latest news, suggesting he'll be more excited when O'Neal can resume full-team activity but reiterating that the key goal is to get him healthy, not rush him back.
"It's not on my radar," said Rivers. "I knew about [his workouts], I knew as of [Saturday], but I just want him to get on the court with us. That's more important. Again, we’re just going to be patient."
O’Neal said that he will be sporting a brace on his left knee when he returns to the court and, while he’s worried about the inhibitive nature of such a device, he knows it's key to sustaining the knee.
“It makes you feel like you’re hurt and look like you’re hurt,” admitted O’Neal. “But I think the most important thing is to finish what I came here to do. If I've got to wear a brace, I've got to wear a brace.”
--S.O'NEAL SITS OUT SECOND HALF VS. NETS WITH SORE CALF--
Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal made his 12th straight start since taking the first-unit baton from Jermaine O'Neal in Miami, but he's battling what the team termed a sore right calf that forced him to sit out the second half of Sunday's win in New Jersey.
Shaq, who missed five games with a bruised right knee, logged 11 minutes 50 seconds of action in a starting role Sunday, but had alerted Rivers that he might have to shut it down after the first half.
"Shaq was great again tonight," said Rivers. "He told me before the game that he probably wouldn’t go. But he knew we didn’t have enough players and said, 'Play me three or four minutes in a row, see how long I can go until halftime.' He was great and we needed those minutes."
Shaq finished with three points and four rebounds. He departed with 5:44 to play in the first half after covering the first 6:16 of the second quarter and did not return.
-- LOOSE BALLS: PIECE GETS REST; DAVIS DRAWS ANOTHER CHARGE--
* Rest for the captain: Paul Pierce logged a mere 23:52, sitting out all 12 minutes of the even quarters as Rivers sought to get his starters increased rest. Pierce finished with eight points, dipping below double digits for the first time this season, but rest seemed just as valuable to the Celtics in the long term, particularly when it doesn't come at the cost of a victory.
* Efficient near the hoop: The Celtics connected on 26-of-37 shots (70.3 percent) in the paint and finished with another decisive advantage there, outscoring the Nets 52-28 in the ink. Boston also thrived in transition, posting a 25-8 advantage in fastbreak points.
* Charge watch: Glen Davis picked up his 22nd charge of the season, absorbing contact from Derrick Favors in the third quarter (he also got Favors by drawing a charge from him in the last meeting). Davis nearly drew another one, but referee Joey Crawford wasn't about to be swayed by Davis' growing reputation for drawing contact near the basket.
* Highlight of the night: On the first possession of the fourth quarter, Marquis Daniels swooped in free from the weak side and threw down a vicious alley-oop jam from Nate Robinson. Daniels finished 4-of-9 shooting with 10 points, doing most of his damage near the basket again.
* Quick hits: Boston has won its last nine games in New Jersey; the Nets' last win coming pre-Big Three on April 16, 2006 ... New Jersey's 25-point loss was its worst defeat of the season, topping a 23-point loss to Miami on Halloween ... The Celtics were only 3-of-15 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc with Robinson provided all the triples.