The Celtics wrapped up their final practice today before Game 1 over in Waltham and held an impromptu press conference to announce that Shaq has been ruled out for tomorrow’s series opener against the Knicks. Here’s Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com with more:
The Boston Celtics attempted to get Shaquille O’Neal back on the practice court Saturday morning, but his ailing right Achilles and strained calf would not allow him to go through the activity and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge announced soon after that O’Neal will not be ready for Sunday’s Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the New York Knicks.
“[Shaq's] been making progress and we tried to get him out there to practice today, to simulate a game as much as we could and he’s not ready,” said Ainge. “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.”
Added team physician Dr. Brian McKeon: “This guy’s been working his tail off. He’s worked so, so hard, and today we did a mock trial pre-game workout and he failed. It didn’t work. Just too sore. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and keep knowing what we’re doing and hopefully we can get him back soon.”
CH’s Analysis: This really shouldn’t come as a huge shock to C’s fans. To be perfectly honest, could foreshadow O’Neal missing as much as the entire first series, given his variety of ailments and the way New York’s front line matches up with Boston.
On paper, the C’s should be able to take care of business with or without the big fellow for the first round anyway. With Shaq’s lack of on-court progress, the priority has shifted into getting the guy back onto the floor when the team needs him the most.
In the short term, obviously this puts the spotlight on Jermaine O’Neal, Jeff Green, and Nenad Krstic more than ever, given that’s where Shaq’s potential minutes will be divided between against the Knicks. We’ll have more breaking down those matchups tomorrow, but for now it’s clear that the availability of Shaq will be an ongoing saga for what in all likelihood will be the remainder of the postseason.