Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Celtics [Print without images]

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Leftovers: J.O.'s massage, Rondo's aplomb

By Chris Forsberg



BOSTON -- A handful of leftovers after the Boston Celtics wrapped up an abbreviated preseason with an 81-73 triumph over the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night at TD Garden:

* No injury for J.O.: Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal departed for the locker room in the third quarter of Wednesday's game, but coach Doc Rivers said it wasn't anything to be concerned by for the oft-injured veteran. "I didn’t want him falling asleep on the bench," joked Rivers. "No, I think he went to go get a massage, honestly. He asked me if he could go get a massage and I said, ‘Sure, whatever.’"

Rivers heaped praise on O'Neal's preseason play after he blocked four shots in less than 12 minutes of court time Wednesday.

"He’s great. He defends the basket, man," said Rivers. "His blocked shots, his timing -- it’s just amazing. He looks great. What you saw is what he’s been all camp. I told you, coming out of our mini training camp, he was the MVP. He’s a rare bird, you rarely see a guy that blocks shots that takes charges. He does both. That’s just unusual."

* Rondo shows confidence in his jumper: Rajon Rondo drilled a trio of first-quarter jumpers Wednesday aiding him in piling up a team-high 17 points and showcasing just how much of a weapon that shot can be.

But Rivers might have preferred the aggressiveness Rondo showed in attacking the basket even more.

"We want him to just shoot it," said Rivers. "I don't care how many times he shoots. What I did like more than his jump shot was that he got to the foul line I think six times in the first half. We need that."

Rondo's attempts at the rim were down more than an attempt per game last season and some wondered if his foul shooting woes (and injury issues) were deterring him from attacking the basket. Rondo missed just one freebie Wednesday, an encouraging sign in his confidence there as well.

* No decision on who starts if Pierce can't go: Sasha Pavlovic started Wednesday's game for Boston, but outside of a fastbreak dunk in the opening moments, he didn't show much to suggest that he'd be an ideal candidate to start if captain Paul Pierce can't suit up on Sunday in the Christmas Day opener against the New York Knicks. Pavlovic missed three other shots from the field, chipping in two rebounds and a steal over 21:16.

"I'm not sure about Sasha or Marquis [Daniels] yet," said Rivers. "I mean, if Paul can't go the first game or second game, we're going to have to make that decision."

Rivers has hinted his preference is to keep Daniels with the second unit in order to maintain the limited continuity there among the top reserves, but given the talent the Celtics face at the swingman position to start the year (Carmelo Anthony in New York and LeBron James in Miami), it's imperative the team feels confident with whoever is on the floor to start the game.

Pierce is nursing a right heel bruise, but you can never count him out from a game at Madison Square Garden.