Pregame notes: J.O'Neal's return delayed

BOSTON -- A collection of news and notes before the Boston Celtics hosted the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at the TD Garden:

Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who had hoped to return to the active roster as early as Wednesday night, will miss his 19th consecutive game, this time due to what coach Doc Rivers dubbed an illness.

O'Neal, sidelined since the second half of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 8 with lingering left knee soreness, had participated in consecutive practice sessions, including one on Tuesday. But Rivers said he is battling flu-like symptoms and will instead eye Saturday's nationally televised Christmas showdown with the Orlando Magic.

"I think he'll play next game, hopefully," said Rivers. "He's just not feeling well -- the flu. I think he would have played tonight [if not for the illness]... He just needs to get minutes. He's ready. I don't know how much we'll play him even when he comes back, but he'll be in uniform -- hopefully on Christmas."

Fortunately for Boston, Shaquille O'Neal is in the starting lineup, making his second consecutive start after missing four games with lingering soreness in his right calf. Also, rookie center Semih Erden, limited by a groin pull in Sunday's win over Indiana, is also feeling better and should see his minutes ramped back up against the 76ers.

A few more quick hits before tip-off:

* Rivers doubted that point guard Rajon Rondo (sprained left ankle) would return for Saturday's game in Orlando and didn't have a timeline for his return. "I know he’s walking and running pretty well, he's moving a lot better, getting pretty close," said Rivers. "I haven’t really asked [the training staff]."

* Rivers fired off what he joked was a "very mean" text message to former assistant Tom Thibodeau after his Bulls throttled the 76ers by 45 points Tuesday night. Rivers knows Philadelphia will be inspired to bounce back strong. "Well, they will [come out angry]," said Rivers. "They're all competitive... You don't want to be the next team, but we are, we'll just have to deal with that."

* Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said the first 10 possessions will show whether his team came to play, noting that, Chicago scored eight of its first 10 possessions Tuesday, setting the tone for that lopsided loss. Collins did call the loss "perplexing," unable to put his finger on exactly why his team absolutely disappeared.