Plenty of health storylines awaiting tonight’s Game 3 showdown in Madison Square Garden. To start, the Celtics held their own shootaround this morning at MSG, with Shaquille O’Neal in attendance, but he appears very doubtful to play this weekend according to Doc (Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston)
“He’s moving better. The fact that he’s moving better, you just bring him on the road.”
Pressed on what he’d need to see from O’Neal to have confidence to put him back on the court, Rivers quipped: “Make some 3′s,” before turning more serious.
“I don’t know. Listen, he’s just feeling better and he’s closer. I don’t know what he needs to show me. He’s not ready to play yet, but he’s getting closer. So the fact that he’s getting closer, you bring him on the road.”
“You need him when you need him; I’m not worried about that,” said Rivers. “I’m more worried about getting him right and healthy. There’s not strategic game plan for not playing him. There’s a medical game plan for not playing him when he can’t play. Once he can play, he’ll play.”
As we’ve talked about at length here at CelticsHub, the smart money is on O’Neal missing this series entirely, unless the C’s face a must-win situation. Shaq has to be able to hold up for (hopefully) at least three more full series when he comes back, so bringing him back prematurely really defeats that purpose.
Rivers know he has O’Neal as a potential get out of jail free card if he needs it later in this series. He just doesn’t want to have to use it until later in the game.
As for the other O’Neal, the news is better regarding JO’s sprained left wrist.
“I wore a brace the last two days, just to protect it and make sure I didn’t open the door wrong and irritate it,” said Jermaine O’Neal. “I feel fine. The swelling is down. It’s one of those situations where, I took a charge and I put my hand back before I fell. It irritated [a preexisting injury] a bit. It’s probably not going to have an affect on me.”
Jermaine O’Neal tore cartilage in that wrist taking a charge in Toronto in the preseason. He aggravated the injury taking a charge from Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Game 1 win, then further tweaked it at the start of Tuesday’s Game 2 and needed to return to the locker room to ice the injury.
Keeping Jermaine healthy has to be priority number one going forward in this series at the center spot, so look for Doc to continue to keep his minutes under control with a tender left wrist. With the Celtics getting nearly nothing from Nenad Krstic, it makes it a difficult proposition, but Glen Davis should continue to see the bulk of the minutes at the five late in games.
Now, behind enemy lines the news isn’t particularly positive on either Amar’e Stoudemire or Chauncey Billups entering Game 3. Amar’e is expected to play, while Billups is doubtful, but both haven’t seen the practice floor since their respective injuries. Here’s the latest from ESPNNewYork:
D’Antoni is optimistic that Stoudemire can play through a pulled muscle in his back.
“He said he feels pretty good, it’s better,” D’Antoni said, “and I have a lot of faith in our medical staff.”
He is less confident that Billups can play with a strained left knee, saying there is “a lot less probability” that the veteran point guard will be available for Game 3.
Stoudemire participated in the Knicks’ walk-through Friday morning. He was working out in the pool after the team’s shootaround and likely will test his back at about 4 p.m. ET, when the team meets for pregame warm-ups.
“Less optimistic,” D’Antoni said of Billups, who had 10 points, four assists and three turnovers in Game 1.
Encouraging news from Celtics fans, given especially how much of a challenge it will be for the C’s at MSG tonight, even without Billups and Stoudemire at full strength. The home floor should help the rest of the Knick fill-ins however, as it’s well documented that bench players play much better at home during the postseason, that is unless of course, you play for Boston.
That’s all for now, a full preview will be upcoming this afternoon for tonight’s showdown.