UPDATE: "I know that's not true," Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com . "He's going to play. I just don't know when."
You wouldn't think a 38-year-old center who has played 89 games over the past two seasons would cause all this hub-ub. But then, most 38-year-old centers aren't the living legend Shaquille O'Neal. A report has surfaced in the Eagle Tribune that suggests that we may not be seeing the Diesel again... ever.
Shaquille ONeal may have worn a Boston Celtics uniform for the last time.via Source: Cs not expecting Shaq in playoffs » Sports » EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA .
In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center wont be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.
"If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery," said the source, who requested anonymity. "And at his age he turned 39 on March 6 and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly."
So that sounds pretty bad. Not having O'Neal, after trading Kendrick Perkins (yes, that old chestnut again, sorry Celtics fans, it's going to keep being brought up), and only having Jermaine O'Neal who has injury issues himself does not set them up well going forward. There is only one dominant center left in the playoffs, but it's more a matter of not having that advantage, rather than another team having a strong one.
Of course, when you really look at the report, there are some questions. From WEEI in Boston:
Sounds like a lot of speculation to me. He “may have worn” Green for the final time? That could’ve been written yesterday, the day before that or a month before that. Of course the Celtics are moving forward as if Shaq’s not returning. What else are they going to do? Stop practicing until the Big Fella suits up? Obviously, they’ll move forward with Jermaine O’Neal as the starting center and Davis as the No. 2, and they’ll adjust if Shaq returns.via Green Street » Irish Coffee: Is Shaq coming back, or isn’t he? .
We already knew about the failed conditioning test, we already knew the Celtics are holding out hope for a return in the first or second rounds and we already knew Rivers had one game plan with Shaq and one game plan without him.
So, really, all we learned is that an NBA source believes it would take “a miraculous recovery” for Shaq to return, based on “his age and physical condition.” We already knew Shaq was 39 years old, and we already knew Shaq weighs at least 325 pounds.
So, before Celtics Nation enters a state of panic, know that Shaquille O’Neal will be reevaluated before Game 3. If he can go, he will. If not, he’ll be reevaluated for Game 4 … and so on and so on. It’s the same old story.
So that's a nice dose of reality. I think it's unlikely we'll find out if O'Neal is done for the playoffs. He will continue to be a "maybe" for every game. Remember how the Celtics treated the Kevin Garnett injury in 2008, cloaked in mystery wrapped in a puzzle. O'Neal is going to be a gametime decision every night, even if the coaching staff is planning for him not to be available.
But this still avoids the problem. Which is if you can't count on Shaq, the Celtics are still trying to determine a gameplan built around Jermaine O'Neal as the only available center. There's the question of injury, there's the question of endurance, there's the question of matchups. The Shaq question keeps getting louder in Boston. In the short term, though, the numbers show that J.O. can make a big impact on the Knicks... when he's feeling well enough to play.