In a bit of a role reversal from the grim news about Shaq’s status last night from A. Sherrod Blakely, Shaquille O’Neal spoke today at his 39th birthday celebration and helped to quiet fears that we may not see the Diesel this month, while pegging himself at 85 percent. Our buddy Greg Payne reporting for ESPNBoston was on the scene and has the scoop from the man himself:
On His Timetable:
“[The Celtics] want me back at 100 percent,” said O’Neal. “I tried to run on it the other day, felt pretty good, but afterwards we kind of took a step back, so hopefully in a few days, in a week or so, I’ll be back.”
On The Injury:
“I have a little Achilles soreness,” O’Neal said. “It gets better, comes back, gets better, comes back. But [Celtics team physician] Dr. [Brian] McKeon is doing a great job, [Celtics trainer] Ed Lacerte is doing a great job. I’ve been working out twice a day, getting a lot of treatment on it. It’ll be right.”
On The Need To Get to 100 Percent Before Returning:
O’Neal said if this were the playoffs, he’d be back in action already, but noted that Rivers and Boston’s Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) have all urged him to take his time coming back.
“I would have to probably go through a little bit more old-school tactics, but I have to give my credit to Dr. McKeon and Doc Rivers,” said O’Neal. “They won’t let me shoot. I asked them the other day [if I could shoot]. They said, ‘No, it’s not right. Let’s just get it healthy.’ My hat’s off to Dr. McKeon and Doc Rivers for doing it the right way.
CH’s Analysis: The C’s are going by last year’s playbook when it comes to Shaq and that should be fine by all Celtics fans. With the additions of Murphy and Krstic and a fairly easy schedule upcoming, Boston has enough bigs to get by in the interim with Glen Davis’ return looming at the end of the week, though it would serve the team well to get him some extra rest too.
When it comes to Shaq, ultimately if the team gets the one seed, they wouldn’t need him until the second round of playoffs anyway. That’s not to say he won’t be back well before that, but essentially its the time frame they want him to be back and fully up to speed after returning from what can be a very slow healing injury.
The bigger question with Shaq may be if they can get the one seed without him if he fails to give them much in the rest of the regular season. I’d lean towards yes as long as the rest of the roster begins to get healthy themselves and that’s like the mentality the braintrust is following here.
And as a sidenote, in case you haven’t noticed just how much Paul Pierce has been killing it this past week in lieu of all the injury woes, he won Eastern Conference player of the week for the second time this season. Here’s the official release from the league:
The Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, Mar. 6.
Pierce led Boston to a 4-0 week, averaging 21.8 points on .587 shooting (27-for-46) to go along with 8.0 rebounds. On March 4 vs. Golden State, Pierce tallied 27 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line to secure a 107-103 victory. This is the second time in the 2010-11 season that Pierce has garnered Player of the Week honors.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Feb. 28 @ Utah: Scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 107-102 win over the Jazz.
March 2 vs. Phoenix: Recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Suns.
March 4 vs. Golden State: Poured in 27 points to go along with seven rebounds in a 107-103 win over the Warriors.
March 6 @ Milwaukee: Tallied 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in a win over the Bucks.
Pierce also proceeded to put an exclamation point on his candidacy with this throwdown last night: