A few odds and ends for this afternoon, before the long anticipated return of Tony Allen to the TD Garden tonight. I look forward to saying hi to TA for big fan and former CelticsHub writer Zach Lowe.
We’ll start with a report from A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com who quotes a team source that says Shaquille O’Neal did not take part in the team shootaround this morning and is extremely unlikely to suit up for tonight’s contest. O’Neal has missed the past 21 games with the Achilles’ injury and traveled with the team on its 2-1 road trip over the weekend.
The delay once again should not come as a big surprise to Celtics fans. To me, there’s a few reasons why we won’t see the big fellow tonight, first and foremost being the fact he’s still hurt. Time and time again, Doc has told the media he wants Shaq to take part in a full practice and then feel good “for a couple days” afterwards before an eventual return to action.
For a guy that just started to shoot around last week for the first time in weeks, a return to action before a full practice session seems a bit foolish on the Boston end of things. When factor in a tough inside opponent tonight (Memphis), with a matchup at center in Marc Gasol, and any potential return tonight would be throwing the Big Diesel a little too much into the fire.
The good news is the C’s have an off day tomorrow, and will practice for the first time in weeks at their practice facility in Waltham. This gives Shaq a chance to have some serious run with his teammates and perhaps be ready return against a much smaller opponent Friday night against Charlotte.
Shaq ate those guys up last time they were in town, and the Bobcats have even less size now with Nazr Mohammed shipped out to Charlotte, so if the C’s have plans to ease Shaq into action this week, Friday would seem to be the smart target date.
With that said, a more cautious route would also be next week (perhaps against San Antonio minus Tim Duncan) as the C’s will have a couple offdays in which they could get some additional practice time in. We’ll obviously know more tonight, but my money is on the latter and more conservative approach, since Boston should have no problem winning Friday night with or without him.
AINGE WITH A FRANK RESPONSE
In other news, there has been a wide amount of speculation surrounding the status of Lawrence Frank and Tennessee’s potential interest in his services after firing Bruce Pearl earlier this week. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald caught up with Ainge earlier today who gave a pretty candid (and expected) response on Doc Rivers top lieutenant:
The Celtics have not been approached by Tennessee about conversations with Frank, a former Tennessee assistant who has never run a program on the collegiate level.
“All I know is that Lawrence is under contract with us for the rest of the season,” Danny Ainge said this morning. “Right now he’s committed to helping us win our next NBA title this year.”
CH’s Analysis: A couple ways you can look at this story. Frank, who was a former Tennessee assistant coach, surely has been sent feelers about the opening, and probably has some interest in the head gig over a fairly prestigious SEC school. With that said, as Murphy points out, Frank has never been a college head coach and obviously has his sights set on a return to the NBA head coach ranks in his career.
He’s pretty perfectly positioned in Boston right now, as a top assistant to one of the best teams in the NBA, as well as potential replacement candidate down the line in Beantown if Doc Rivers were to depart. And even if he’s not on Ainge’s list for Doc’s eventual replacement, there will surely be other teams lining up for his services at some point in the next 3-4 years if he has a successful go-around in Boston.
Given this and the lateness of the season, it seems a bit far fetched to believe Frank would leave the C’s high and dry in the midst of a title run to take the head gig down south. You can’t fault a guy for leaving town for a better job, but I don’t see Frank as the kind of guy who would pull that card and leave this team shorthanded down the stretch, especially when he may have better options looming down the line.
That’s all for now, here’s some TA highlights to get you fired up for tonight, including my favorite play from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals.