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Sunday, May 1, 2011
Shaquille O'Neal return 'very close'

By Chris Forsberg

MIAMI -- Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal sat out Sunday's Game 1 of the team's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat, but coach Doc Rivers suggested the 39-year-old center should be back on the floor in the next game or two.

"He's getting very close," Rivers said before the Celtics lost 99-90. "Honestly, we had to actually make a decision today, so that's better than what we've had to do in the past. He's getting close. Maybe next game. If not, I would say for sure Game 3."

O'Neal walked through the crowded visitors' locker room in game shorts and a T-shirt before the game, moving about as well as he has in recent weeks. The series includes three full offdays between Tuesday's Game 2 in Miami and Saturday's Game 3 in Boston, which would allow the Celtics extra time to get O'Neal right if needed. The biggest hurdle appears to be post-activity soreness.

"He's getting there," Rivers said. "He tried to do some stuff, but he keeps getting really sore afterward. So we're just going to wait."

The Heat's Udonis Haslem also missed Game 1.

"There was some thought about him," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Haslem. "It was one of the more difficult decisions I've had to make. Objectively, he's not quite there. He is making great strides, so we have to be patient and evaluate this objectively, not on the timeline of when the series starts."

Haslem went through such a workout Sunday that even the ballboy who was rebounding for him was dripping with sweat when it was over. Haslem said he had to prepare to play, even though he acknowledged that he wasn't certain he could convince the Heat that he's ready to return.

"I'm trying," he said as he left the floor. "It's not up to me. I'm just working to get ready."

The Celtics made one change for Sunday, adding former Heat guard Carlos Arroyo to their active 12-man roster in place of Sasha Pavlovic.

"He knows this team," Rivers said. "He was in their training camp. He was in their practices. He knows their personnel. So I just thought he may be able to help us in some way."

Miami made no changes to its active roster from what it used in the first round against Philadelphia, with Dexter Pittman and former starting center Erick Dampier joining Haslem on the inactive list. Avery Bradley was also inactive for Boston, joining O'Neal and Pavlovic.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.