Post-game Reactions

As Jermaine O’Neal prepares to return to action tonight in San Antonio, the news is grim regarding a return to the floor of the other vital part of the C’s championship hopes in Shaquille O’Neal. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald caught up with Danny Ainge yesterday, who delivered the disturbing quote in today’s paper:

“I don’t have any idea,” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said after watching the workout by O’Neal, who is attempting to recover from a sore right Achilles tendon. “It could be a week or two weeks.

“I watched him work out, and he’s starting to do things on the court. We’re just still not sure of when he’s going to come back.

There probably isn’t a soul in the Celtics organization who would have predicted, even two weeks ago, that Jermaine O’Neal would return to full practice and probably a game before his namesake.

But after yesterday’s practice, that’s apparently the case. Though Shaquille O’Neal joined the Celtics on their last road trip through Houston, New Orleans and New York, he chose not to travel during their current four-city trip.

“I’ve seen a lot of things over the years,” Ainge said when asked about this latest twist.

CH’s Analysis: A cruel twist indeed, but at this point can it be considered an unexpected one? For one, I am happy Ainge decide to eliminate any timetable expectations going forward regarding Shaq’s return. Achilles’ injuries are slow to heal to begin with, and when you put a 350-pound frame on top of that, things get unpredictable.

The media has, and will continue to be hungry when it comes to a timetable for Shaq, but the truth is all the anticipated returns and subsequent setbacks has done nothing but raise false hopes for the C’s fanbase at large. The fact of the matter is, with just 9 games left in the regular season, there’s no point in rushing Shaq back just to get acclimated. He’s shown he can play well with the starters and obviously regaining rhythm will be a major concern, but not one that is above overall health.

Shaq will play through the pain, but only when he absolutely has to, especially considering the team is going to need him to gut it out for what they hope is 20+ games in May and June. It’s also worth mentioning Shaq returned in the playoffs for Cleveland last year after missing the final month and a half of the regular season with a thumb injury, which Big Baby may or may not have caused. Different injury obviously, but a good sign Shaq will show up when the chips are on the table.

Despite the lengthy absence, Shaq was arguably their 2nd best player for the Cavs before they bowed out to Boston in 6 games. He was certainly their second option in that offense. Whenever he comes back this year, he will obviously be asked to do a lot less and have a lot more help around him.

Given the choice of just one of the O’Neals returning on schedule, I’m happy in a way Jermaine O’Neal will be returning before Shaq in the sense that Jermaine will take longer that get re-acclimated to the C’s system.

Doc jokes about not having Jermaine around the team, but the fact of the matter is he probably only participated in a handful of practices during the regular season this year, and hasn’t been with the team in over two months. He needs the reps with both units as Doc tries to decipher what the team can realistically get out of him for the postseason.

The main concern I have for both of these guys, specifically Shaq is in a first round series against an up and coming athletic team like Philadelphia. A team I feel could legitimately beat Boston if they don’t have one of the O’Neals effectively patrolling the paint. That in itself is scary enough of a reality to push hard for the second seed into the regular season finale.

For now though, the time has come to be realistic with Shaq. He will be back later than anyone of us will have wanted or expected, but at this juncture, that’s the reality of the situation.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • cos

    "For now though, the time has come to be realistic with Shaq. He will be back later than anyone of us will have wanted or expected, but at this juncture, that’s the reality of the situation."

    Come on now, really? If we're all being honest here, how many of us actually expected much from either O'Neal (I know I didn't). I am certain there's a number of people who felt from day one these two guys would not be healthy for a significant amount of the season, possibly/probably including playoff time. Shaqs start of the season success was fools gold. Of course he was going to play great when the season started and he had a summer off. But constant work on the court (including working out) has an effect on the body. You want realistic… Shaq's 39 years old! Age catches everyone.

  • Rich

    wait, wait, wait, wait…

    there is no way on Earth the Sixers can beat the Celtics in a 7 game series… come on people…

    • talesofJP

      I actually think the longer a series like that went the better shot the 76ers would have. they have a good team, and they may be young, but have a great coach and playoff experience from a few years back. I hope we don't see them, let the Heat play them

      • Chris O

        No way. Not happeneing. If it was a 3 or 5 game series SURE. 7 games i don't see Philly playing that consistent. The longer the series the LESS LIKELY for upsets. Which is why the NBA ia now all 7 gamers

  • kricky

    Does Ainge still make the trade if he knows Shaq won't come back?

    • Chris O

      No….I don't think he does

      • elroz

        Yes and then who will replace Marquis Daniels? Everybody forgetting that Boston had NO back-up to Pierce until Green arrived.
        The Perk went down for several weeks.

  • Mike

    Jermaine is back, they are going to hold Shaq back for the playoffs. No point in him playing now with so few games left on the regular season.

  • talesofJP

    I agree with the post, JO needed to be back before Shaq, but there needs to be caution with both of them obviously. Shaq is more important but JO will help a lot. Hopefully he has been studying the playbook while he has been away.

  • NHBluesMan

    "That Big Baby may or may not have caused…" hahaha, love it

  • Morpheus

    Come on get a grip. All of a sudden the Sixers are THEE team to fear. They're athletic yeah, but they're not beating a smart, savvy, experienced playoff team like the Cs.

  • james patrick

    Do you have any idea about ANYTHING Danny or are you just pretty much clueless from this point out?

    Yeah, and don't give me any talk about how Danny gave us title #17. That was so 2008.

    • Batman

      U can't get to 18 without 17 🙂

  • Batman

    Danny says Shaq is coming back on Sunday or Tuesday

  • elroz

    I'm concerned how well Shaq will play when – if – he comes back say the last 2 games of the season? Maybe they are going to bring him in slowly during the first round?! Wow.