Pregame: Wilcox in, O'Neal out

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
7:04
PM ET


BOSTON -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal will sit out Monday's game against the Washington Wizards due to a sore left hamstring. Rookie Greg Stiemsma will start in his place and the team will get additional front-court depth as Chris Wilcox (left shoulder bruise) returns after a three-game absence.

Coach Doc Rivers stressed that O'Neal's hamstring, which flared up in the third quarter of Sunday's win in Washington during the front end of this home-and-home, isn't bad and his absence is largely precautionary.

"It’s not bad," said Rivers. "[Team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] just came to me and suggested that he didn’t play -- he didn’t say, ‘No, he can’t play,’ he suggested it. With the hamstring, you just don’t want to take any chances. JO’s been doing so well, we figure with tonight, [an offday] tomorrow, and then maybe he can play the next game."

As for Stiemsma drawing the start, Rivers said he felt most comfortable with him playing alongside the Big Four.

"Well, we’re just trying to protect him by starting him because he’s with the four best players, and that helps him," Rivers said. "The one thing he does is block shots. I’m thrilled to death that he’s shooting the ball because he can actually really shoot the ball. He doesn’t have much of a post game, but he can spread the floor. And that’s good."

Said Stiemsma about his start: "I'm ready to go. This whole time here has been about opportunities, and I'm just looking at it as another one. So I've just got to go out, play my role and play hard."

He admitted to being surprised after getting word of his start when he arrived to TD Garden.

"I kind of did a double-take, but I'm ready," he said. "I'm ready to step in and just keep playing like I've been playing. Just play hard and hopefully smart and take care of the ball, do the little things, and be ready to go."

Wilcox, who had originally targeted Sunday's game for his return, had a little additional padding near his shoulder on his undershirt, but said he's ready to go.

"It's feeling better," he said. "I'm going to go out here tonight, see how it feels and we'll go from there. Not a lot of practice time, so you know, try to get in the game."

He said he'll play with no limitations.

"I'm just going to go out here and play hard, do what I've been doing," he said. "If it feels uncomfortable, then I know exactly where I'm at. But as of right now, I'm feeling good, so I'm going to go out there and play."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9