CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- As the Celtics were preparing for the start of their offday practice Monday on the campus of the University of Miami, a whistle blew to alert the media that their access was winding down. At that moment, Shaquille O'Neal appeared through a pair of double doors leading to the gymnasium as if reporting for the start of the session.
Realizing it was a premature toot, O'Neal, who had been on the floor earlier while putting his practice gear on and getting stretched out, ducked back into an adjoining room where he was working out with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo. But one thing was obvious from the sequence: Shaq appeared ready to do as much as his ailing right calf/Achilles will allow hoping to convince coach Doc Rivers to let him play in Tuesday's Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat.
Rivers said before the session that O'Neal's ability to play Tuesday likely rests on his soreness level after Monday's activity.
"That's the whole key, whatever we do today, if his body doesn't react well, you just can't play him," said Rivers. "I'm not going to take that risk for him."
But if O'Neal's body does react well to Monday's activity, and if the Celtics decide to forego the three offdays of rest that await before Saturday's Game 3, the 39-year-old center could very well be back on the floor Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena.
Rivers did caution that O'Neal hasn't engaged in much running, a hurdle he quite obviously has to clear to get back into game action.
"About as much as you and I have been running and I'm just going to take a gamble and say that's very little," Rivers joked with a reporter when asked how much O'Neal has been able to run recently. "I know from my point, I don’t know about you. He’s run a little bit. We have that [treadmill] in our facility that takes all the weight off, so he’s running on that every day. I don’t know if that counts, but he’s been doing a little running."
Rivers did reiterate that O'Neal is "feeling much better," and seems to be maintaining the optimism that he gushed with Sunday when he suggested that O'Neal would be back on the floor by Saturday's Game 3 in Boston.
O'Neal has logged only 5½ minutes of game action since Feb. 1.