After missing four games due to soreness in his right calf, Shaquille O'Neal returns to the Celtics' starting lineup Sunday. It couldn't come at a better time as rookie Semih Erden, who pinch hit as a starter in Shaq's absence, is nursing a groin pull and won't be 100 percent against the Pacers.
Meanwhile, Jermaine O'Neal remains inactive, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that he could be back on the floor as early as Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Shaq’s going to play today, no Jermaine," said Rivers. "Semih is not doing well, he has a groin pull now. He is going to play, but I don’t know how much he can play."
The Celtics have been thin up front for more than a month with Shaq missing a total of nine games since bumping knees with New York's Amare Stoudemire in late November, while a sore left knee has kept Jermaine O'Neal out of action for 17 straight games dating back to his exit in the second half of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 8.
The Celtics are sure to be cautious with Erden on Sunday. They weren't expecting him to be able to play at all after he sat out Saturday's practice.
"At this point [Saturday], we thought he wasn’t playing," Rivers said. "Then today he said he was fine, so we’ll see."
Rivers acknowledged that Jermaine O'Neal "looked great" Saturday and expressed optimism he'd be able to play Wednesday.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Rivers said he had no update on point guard Rajon Rondo and his sprained left ankle.
"I have no idea, I really don’t," said Rivers. "Honestly, I haven’t even asked [Celtics trainer] Eddie [Lacerte]."
Rivers also spent time talking about the Orlando Magic's wheeling and dealing Saturday, joking that the team would have to rip up its Christmas Day scouting reports ("It sucks," Rivers joked) and said the team would send advance scout Jamie Young back to Orlando for new intel. ("[Young] was going to be home for the holiday, now he has to go right back out on the road," Rivers joked.)
Rivers said he'd hold off before passing judgment on whether the moves make the Magic better.
"Oh, I don’t know," Rivers said. "Only they know that, they know what they were looking for. I heard they were looking for guys who could create off the dribble, and I think they have added that. They lost some size, we’ll see later. I don’t think we’ll know on Christmas whether they’re better or worse, or hell, we may not have half our guys. But we’ll know that answer later."