Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com passed along the news last night, that the team’s starting center would make the three-game jaunt with the team through the deep south, before heading to New York Monday:
While O’Neal might not even return to game action this trip, it’s an encouraging sign in his recovery from right foot injuries that have sidelined him since Feb. 1. According to the Celtics, the entire team made the trek, except for Jermaine O’Neal, who continues to work out on his own away from the team with eyes towards a return before the end of the regular season.
With the Celtics trekking to New Orleans on Saturday, Shaq clearly has motivation to return to his old stomping grounds. But making his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI (850 AM) Thursday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge noted Shaq’s activity will ramp up with the trip.
“I think about a week ago we re-evaluated and readjusted,” said Ainge. “He came back [to Boston] a couple of weeks ago [after Boston's post-All-Star west coast trip] with the hopes of playing by now, but I think there was a little bit of a setback. He’s with the team on the trip just to get some shootarounds and some practice time in, but it’s just day-to-day. He still feels a little bit of discomfort there. I think we still feel the same way, that he’ll be fine, it’s just a matter of when.”
Ainge also expanded on the setback Shaq had which further delayed his return.
“No, I think it was a legitimate setback,” Ainge said. “He still feels some discomfort in his Achilles periodically, and so we’re not going to put him out there yet. I think that it’s always a question of, ‘OK, you’re going to have a little bit of discomfort anyway, do you need to just go play, and just get back in rhythm and play through it? Or will it completely heal and you will have no discomfort if you give it a little bit more time?’ That’s always the question. I’m not sure there’s a perfect answer.”
The clock continues to tick on both O’Neals with just 16 games remaining in the regular season, nonetheless this is a very good sign and despite the short time left, there’s still no need to rush Shaq too much here. Nenad Krstic has done more filling in through the past 10 games than most C’s fans could have ever dreamed of, and with Troy Murphy slowly but surely coming around, the big man rotation is stable for the time being, without an extra minutes having to fall on Kevin Garnett and a recovering Glen Davis.
Given the fact the C’s aren’t likely to “need” Shaq’s bulk until the second round at the earliest (though it would be nice to have in a matchup vs. Philly or Indy), don’t plan on seeing Shaq out there for at least another week. That said, the question does remain of just how long is too long to wait at this point? Is Shaq almost running out the clock a problem in the sense it gives him less time to mesh with the starters when he’s back out there, or has he done that enough in the first-third of the season? It’s a question the C’s training staff will have to wrestle with as March turns into April.