- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he's heard scuttlebutt amongst his team about center Shaquille O'Neal potentially being ready to play on part of Boston's upcoming four-game road trip, but Rivers said he actually believes April 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers is the most likely date to expect to pull the Diesel back out of the garage.
"[Shaq coming on the road trip is] a possibility, I actually heard that there’s a chance, but I don’t expect it," Rivers said before Saturday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center. "I can tell you I’ve heard different things. I just think that’s too optimistic, in my opinion, just being around the game long enough to know that, when they take the boot off, you usually don’t play a day later. And I don’t see him flying on the plane, getting the boot off -- I just think that’s unrealistic.
"There’s a better chance -- when do we come home, next Sunday? There's a better chance there [vs. Detroit] and I actually don’t think that's realistic. It's more likely the game after that [vs. Philadelphia]. That would be our target date for Shaq. And I don’t even know if that one is [going to hold firm]. I would say [the optimistic members of the team are] thinking maybe Atlanta [next Friday], maybe the first game back [in Boston]. I think there’s no chance of that."
O'Neal, who has been sidelined since Feb. 1 due to right foot injuries including an Achilles issue, received a cortisone shot Tuesday and was put back in an immobilizing boot. O'Neal is definitely out the next two games (at Minnesota and Indiana), but the team was hopeful he would be day-to-day after that.
The Celtics play at San Antonio Thursday, then travel to Atlanta on Friday. With no practice scheduled Saturday coming off that back-to-back, Rivers isn't optimistic O'Neal could be ready for a visit from the Pistons on April 3.
If O'Neal returns April 5, he would still have six games to work off the rust before the first round of the playoffs begin on April 16.