Boston Celtics: ShaqWatch
(h/t: Red's Army)
MIAMI -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said center Shaquille O'Neal is doubtful for Wednesday's Game 5 due to lingering soreness in his right Achilles and calf and sounded pessimistic for his chances to get back on the court moving forward.
O'Neal played only 3½ minutes in the first half of Monday's Game 4 loss and did not return to the court.
"It was physical [in Game 4]," Rivers said before the team's shootaround Wednesday morning at American Airlines Arena. "I don't know yet [about Wednesday's Game 5]. I would say I doubt it. But we'll see. [O'Neal played] a little stretch [in Game 4], then it got worse."
Rivers sounded glum about O'Neal's potential to have an on-court impact moving forward.
"There's nothing he can do," said Rivers. "It's not like he's not trying. I told our team that [Tuesday], he's done everything possibly he can do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he hasn't been able to do it.
"When he was originally injured, no one even thought it was that serious. I don't know what I said, because I talk to you guys every day, but I think I was saying it's not even a big deal, he'll be back in four or five days. It just never healed. It still hasn't and now every time he plays it gets worse. So, there's nothing you can do about it."
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics eased back into practice Thursday, simply watching film and going through a brief walkthrough, but coach Doc Rivers said that he expects all of his players available for Saturday’s Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat, including center Shaquille O’Neal.
“Everybody’s good,” said Rivers. “Everybody is feeling pretty good. Shaq went through practice, we didn’t do anything today, we just watched film and walked over some stuff, and then the second unit [not including O'Neal] worked on their stuff. Right now, we expect every single guy, including Shaq, to play [in Game 3].”
The Celtics emerged with a rash of bumps and bruises after Tuesday’s Game 2 loss that put them in a 0-2 hole as the series shifts to Boston. Paul Pierce suffered a left Achilles strain, Ray Allen endured a chest bruise from a LeBron James elbow, and both Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal battled balky backs.
But Rivers stressed that none of those injuries should keep any of that quartet off the floor. And only a setback will detour Shaq, who is expected to play limited minutes off the bench.
Asked why he’s now more confident that Shaq could play, Rivers said with a laugh , “Because he told me he was going to play,” then added, “[Team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] thought he would play, so I do expect him to play. If he didn’t, it would be because something went wrong in practice with his body. But right now, I expect him to play.”
Rivers admitted the team isn’t sure what Shaq’s practice workload will look like this week in order to prevent the sort of post-activity soreness he experienced after his first full on-court workout Monday in Miami. That soreness contributed to him not being active for Game 2.
“We’re not going to let him do too much,” said Rivers. “Someone will ask: How much is too much? Hell if I know. I don’t know what too much is. Walking on the floor could be too much. We’ll figure that out.”
Allen was the only starter to come onto the floor during the portion of practice open to the media. He said the chest bruise, courtesy of a LeBron James elbow, is lingering, but won’t keep him off the court Saturday. He playfully showed the bruised left pectoral, before noting much of the mark had gone away since Tuesday’s game that forced him to return to the locker room due to shortness of breath.
"It's still a little tight,” said Allen. “It wasn't bad, but I couldn't do some of the things I wanted to do when I worked out. It feels a lot better from two days ago."
“He looked great [Monday], went through the whole practice,” said Rivers. “He was phenomenal, actually... But by the end of practice, he was struggling walking, so we’ll see. I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, we’re not sure yet, but I doubt it.”
Rivers said O’Neal participated in his first scrimmage work since aggravating the right calf/Achilles injury while playing 5½ minutes against the Detroit Pistons on April 3. It’s the only game action he’s logged since Feb. 1.
“He can [run during the scrimmage], but it’s the after-effects of doing it,” said Rivers. “Just watching him walk on the bus, even this morning, the recovery time is just tough for him.”
The Celtics have the benefit of three full offdays between Tuesday’s Game 2 in Miami and Saturday’s Game 3 in Boston, which would allow the 39-year-old center more time to heal. But Rivers stressed again that, as soon as O’Neal is ready, he’s going to put him on the floor and believes he’ll be an impact player.
“Hell, if he told me today he can play, and [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and them said he could play, I’d have no problem playing him,” said Rivers. “At the end of the day, unlike all of us, he’s big. You know what I mean? When we play him, he’s still going to be big. He’s still going to be bigger than anybody on the floor. And if that’s for two minutes or 40 minutes, you’re still big. Height matters.”
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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.
As the ShaqWatch continues, of course that's what was being asked.
"Shaq is not going to practice today, and he will not practice [Thursday]," said Rivers. "We hope he’ll practice the next day, whatever day that would be. Is that Friday? OK, we hope he’s back on Friday. But we don’t know, we’ll see."
Rivers later admitted that O'Neal, limited to 5½ minutes of action since Feb. 1 due to right Achilles and calf injuries, is doing "a lot better," but wouldn't start speculating about his availability for Game 1 of the next round.
"It really depends, not just on Friday, but Friday and Saturday, so I don't know," said Rivers. "I don't know if I'm confident or not. I'm hopeful."
The Celtics took Monday and Tuesday off and Rivers zipped home to Orlando for the break. Asked if the team had examined O'Neal during the lull in activity, Rivers quipped: "I didn't take a look at anybody. Unless he was in Orlando, Florida, I didn't see Shaq -- and Shaq could have been in Orlando, now that I think about it."
A return to practice on Friday has potential to allow O'Neal to ramp up activity in time for the next round, which would start Sunday in Miami if the Heat win either of the next two games against the Philadelphia. If the 76ers, currently in a 3-1 hole, rally to force a Game 7, that would allow the team even more time to try to get Shaq healthy again.
NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers remained hesitant to offer a firm timeline on when ailing center Shaquille O'Neal might return to game action, but reiterated that he's moving closer to that goal by traveling with the team.
"I don't know the plan yet," said Rivers. "He's moving better. The fact that he's moving better, you just bring him on the road."
Pressed on what he'd need to see from O'Neal to have confidence to put him back on the court, Rivers quipped: "Make some 3's," before turning more serious.
"I don't know. Listen, he's just feeling better and he's closer. I don't know what he needs to show me. He's not ready to play yet, but he's getting closer. So the fact that he's getting closer, you bring him on the road."
In the portion of shootaround open to the media, O'Neal worked with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, getting stretched out under one basket. O'Neal playfully did reverse push-up, lifting Doo up by his feet as he Boston's strength guru clung to the hoop upright.
Rivers again stressed that O'Neal simply is not ready for game action and there's no hidden game plan behind bringing him back.
"You need him when you need him; I'm not worried about that," said Rivers. "I'm more worried about getting him right and healthy. There's not strategic game plan for not playing him. There's a medical game plan for not playing him when he can't play. Once he can play, he'll play."
Rivers nodded when asked if there was still potential for O'Neal to appear in Sunday's Game 4, but O'Neal still displayed a limp while walking off the court. The 39-year-old center, limited to 5½ minutes of action since Feb. 1 with right calf and Achilles issues, wouldn't indulge a pack of reporters in health talk, but did provide a laugh when he stopped to introduce himself to a female staffer outside the visitors' locker room, saying, "Hello, Jermaine O'Neal, nice to meet you."
As for the real Jermaine O'Neal, he was sporting a hefty ice pack on his left wrist after the morning session, but said it's nothing to be concerned about.
"I wore a brace the last two days, just to protect it and make sure I didn’t open the door wrong and irritate it," said Jermaine O'Neal. "I feel fine. The swelling is down. It's one of those situations where, I took a charge and I put my hand back before I fell. It irritated [a preexisting injury] a bit. It's probably not going to have an affect on me."
Jermaine O'Neal tore cartilage in that wrist taking a charge in Toronto in the preseason. He aggravated the injury taking a charge from Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1 win, then further tweaked it at the start of Tuesday's Game 2 and needed to return to the locker room to ice the injury.
O'Neal played only 20:24 that night, including a mere seven second-half minutes, but stressed that the second-half floor time was valuable to helping restore Glen Davis' confidence and is not related to the injury.
* (For the latest on the Knicks' injuries, hop HERE).
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