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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Doc Rivers: Shaq likely to return April 5

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he's heard scuttlebutt among his players about center Shaquille O'Neal potentially being ready to play part of Boston's upcoming four-game road trip.

But Rivers said he actually believes April 5, against the Philadelphia 76ers, is the most likely date to expect the Diesel out of the garage.

"[Shaq coming on the road trip is] a possibility, I actually heard that there's a chance, but I don't expect it," Rivers said before Saturday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center. "I can tell you I've heard different things. I just think that's too optimistic, in my opinion, just being around the game long enough to know that, when they take the boot off, you usually don't play a day later. And I don't see him flying on the plane, getting the boot off -- I just think that's unrealistic.

"There's a better chance -- when do we come home, next Sunday? There's a better chance there [versus Detroit] and I actually don't think that's realistic. It's more likely the game after that [versus Philadelphia]. That would be our target date for Shaq. And I don't even know if that one is [going to hold firm]."

O'Neal, who has been sidelined since Feb. 1 due to right foot injuries, including an Achilles issue, received a cortisone shot Tuesday and was put back in an immobilizing boot. O'Neal is definitely out the next two games (at Minnesota and Indiana), but the team was hopeful he would be day to day after that.

The Celtics play at San Antonio on Thursday, then travel to Atlanta on Friday. With no practice scheduled Saturday coming off that back-to-back, Rivers isn't optimistic O'Neal could be ready for a visit from the Pistons on April 3.

If O'Neal returns April 5, he still would have six games to work off the rust before the first round of the playoffs begin April 16.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.