Shaq Ruled Out for Game 1
WALTHAM, Mass. - In the words of team physician Dr. Brian McKeon, Shaquille O'Neal has been "working his tail off” to get himself back on the court. But he won't be available for the Celtics Sunday night when they tip off their first-round playoff matchup with the New York Knicks, and it's unclear to everyone – including McKeon, Danny Ainge and O'Neal himself – when he'll be able to return to the floor.
"We don't know when he'll be ready, and we'll just keep evaluating him day to day. So he won't play in tomorrow's game," Ainge said after gathering reporters in Waltham on Saturday while practice was still in session. O'Neal himself did not meet with the media after practice.
O'Neal, who's dealing with a calf/Achilles injury, attempted a mock pregame-workout in the morning before Saturday's practice. But the Celtics center was unable to complete the workout, which McKeon said was mostly just running the floor. O'Neal passed the same test before he played in the April 3 game against Detroit, but left hobbling off the floor after just five minutes of action when he restrained the injury while running up the floor.
McKeon added that O'Neal has been getting aggressive massage therapy and plenty of attention from the team's trainers as he attempts to rejoin the fray, but indicated that what O'Neal really needs to heal is simple: time. The good news? McKeon said that O'Neal hasn't had a setback, and is actually making progress toward a comeback.
"This is a tough injury. The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor, it's time," said McKeon. "I was telling Danny and the coaches, in the last 20 years this is one area of medicine we've made no progress. Because it's just time. It's just hard to get enough healing potential in that area."
He added, "Shaq's one of the toughest athletes I've ever taken care of.”
With O'Neal sidelined for at least Game 1, Jermaine O'Neal will likely get the start against the Knicks.
Coach Doc Rivers said that the team has been preparing as if Shaq wouldn't be available, but they'll be ready to reintegrate him in the game plan when he's ready to return.
"I told him to just keep working,” Rivers said. "He's going to play for us, we just don't know when. But he'll be back.”