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Tag:Shaquille O'Neal
Posted on: April 7, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Boston Celtics

Posted by Royce Young



If I were writing this piece a month and half ago, things might be a bit more optimistic. If I were writing this piece a month and a half ago, I think I'd likely be skipping all talk about the first and second rounds and going straight to possible Eastern and even NBA Finals opponents.

But a lot happened over the past 45 days or so. A lot happened that drastically changed the outlook of the 2010-11 season for the Boston Celtics.

You know the story. Danny Ainge decided to trade ubuntu cornerstone and family member Kendrick Perkins away for Jeff Green and a balding 27-year-old. The team was now relying on Shaquille O'Neal's 39-year-old body to heal up and be ready for the grind of the playoffs. The team was banking on Green -- a notoriously inconsistent player -- to consistently provide a scoring punch off the bench and stabilize things on the wing. The team was trying to keep an eye toward the future while still focusing on the now.

Except the now might've been badly damaged.

Since the Perkins trade, the Celtics are 13-9. They're giving up more points per possession, scoring less and losing to teams they almost always handle. Now my personality is anti-panic, so I'm definitely not doing anything of the sort for Boston. But let's face the music here: The team is much different without Perkins. Differently in personality, different in personnel, different in ability. Boston is really missing not just that one-on-one post defender they had in Perk, but what his attitude and intensity brought as well. 

Road To The Finals
I really agree with Bill Simmons, who knows that team better than anyone. They really believed in their group. They believed in the fact nobody had ever beat them when they were at full strength. They walked with a serious swagger, they believed in each other. I'm not exactly sure what message was sent to the team when Ainge traded Perkins, but I don't think it was a positive one. You can spin that deal any way you want -- it was for the future, the Celtics needed a wing, it helps the bench -- the players didn't respond well to it. And the actual team is the most important factor in all of this.

As it stands going into tonight's matchup with the Bulls, Boston sits second in the East, tied with the Heat and three back of the Bulls. Gone is the possibility of the top seed and it'll be a tussle to place second too. The Celtics are headed for an opening round series with either Philadelphia or New York. Fifty days ago, Boston looks superior in every way against both those teams. Now, things look a bit more iffy.

But here's where we pump the brakes.

The Celtics are, in fact, still 54-23. (Know what they were last year when they stormed to The Finals? 50-32 and fourth in the East.) They Celtics are, in fact, still good. They still have Ray Allen. They still have Kevin Garnett, They still have Paul Pierce. They still have Rajon Rondo. Maybe they're missing a big, mean-looking piece in the middle, but it can be overcome.

They defend. They score in crunch time. They're playoff tested. These guys know how to win. They know what it takes. Nobody has quite the same motivation as the Celtics, because nobody else suffered a painful Game 7 defeat in The Finals last June. Doc Rivers talked about how the team has that same excitement for the game and each other that it had in training camp in 2007 when they went on to win it all. This team is still very, very good.

Keep in mind, Perkins had only played in 11 games with Boston this season. The Celtics have experienced most of their success this season without him. But again, that's just without him on the floor. People tend to underestimate things like chemistry. Though Perk might not have been playing, the rest of the team knew he was coming soon, and really just in time for when they really needed him.

Is this Boston group a true Finals contender? Of course. Absolutely they are. The Celtics could trade Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and they'd still have Miami's number just because they're in the Heat's head completely. But no longer can this group take things for granted. They aren't going to cruise past the 76ers or Knicks. And despite having the Heat by the tail, they aren't going to just skip past them either.

Then it's about the Bulls. Doc Rivers and Ainge can tell themselves that getting Shaq back will be an answer in matching up inside with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. That might be true. But things are different now for the Celtics. They've lost a little something. An edge, a mentality, a swagger -- whatever. And they may have lost their chance at it all this year too.
Posted on: April 3, 2011 6:26 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Shaq returns versus Pistons, injures calf

Posted by Royce Young

UPDATE: Shaq actually returned, for real, to the Celtics today. On his first trip down the floor though, he presumably re-injured the Achilles that sidelined him for so long. However, rest easy Celtic fans, the team says it was a right calf strain. Shaq left the game, limping off the floor. Reports say he had to be wheelchaired to the locker room.

It looks like the Celtics dodged a big one with Shaq not re-injured the Achilles, but still, the question is begged: What happens come playoff time? Can Shaq really hold up for four seven-game series, much less just one? He's a bit out of game shape right now so that's definitely part of it. But still, the risk of trading Kendrick Perkins relied heavily on the health of a beat up 39-year-old center and so far, he hasn't been able to get healthy.

-----

Following the will he, won't he saga of when Shaquille O'Neal is to return has gotten about as old as the Big Diesel himself. But via CSN New England, Shaq says he's going to try and give it a go tonight versus Detroit.

“I’m going to try,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Of course Shaq has missed the last couple months because of an Achilles injury that has taken forever to fully heal. It would be very nice for Boston to get him back, especially with Nenad Krstic out for the moment with a strained knee.

Doc Rivers recently said he hoped to get Shaq back before the playoffs and the reasoning is obvious. Rivers wants Shaq to work off some of the rust, get in game shape and be ready to go full out during a playoff series. If Boston were to get him back tonight versus Detroit, that would give O'Neal seven games to get settled in again.

Whatever the case, this sounds promising as there has been some worry that Shaq might not ever be ready to go again as this thing kept strining out. But it sounds like he's feeling good, looking good and very close to a return.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 31, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Doc Rivers hopes to get Shaq before the playoffs

Posted by Royce Young

First, it was April 1 for Shaquille O'Neal to return. Well, that's today and he's not playing.

Next it was possibly April 5. Still a chance of that, by the way Doc Rivers sounded speaking to CSN New England, the Celtics are just hoping he ca be back for the playoffs.

“I really hope we can get him before the playoffs,” said Rivers, who added that the injury is starting to “get close to bleeding” into the teams’ postseason plans.

While the C’s maintain there hasn’t been any setback, they do say it has taken longer to heal than anticipated (isn’t that a setback?)….

“The good thing with him is that he’s still big and strong,” Rivers said. “But that (not playing until the playoffs) would be difficult.”

Maybe we all got our O'Neals confused. Jermaine is set to return soon, so maybe people just got it all messed up. But this isn't encouraging news for the Celtics who desperately need a paint presence right now. Hoping for a playoff return doesn't exactly sound all that great. Shaq's achilles has kept him out for almost 25 games now and if he doesn't return until the playoffs, he won't have played in almost two months.

For a 39-year-old that isn't light on his feet, I would assume some rust and conditioning issues could pop up. Not exactly something you want starting the playoffs off with.

At some point, Shaq will play again for the Celtics. But right now, each time it sounds like he has a return date, it gets pushed back. The Celtics say there hasn't been a setback, but if not, why is it taking so long? The original timetable had him back in late March and now maybe he'll be back by mid-April? For Boston who is slipping after trading a championship tested center in Kendrick Perkins, this type of information surely isn't comforting.
Posted on: March 26, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 7:15 pm
 

Doc Rivers doesn't see Shaq back before April 5

Posted by Royce Young

Are you going to be shocked -- shocked, I say -- if word is Shaquille O'Neal won't return by April 1, as was reported earlier in the week?

Because according to Doc Rivers, he doesn't see that happening.
"[Shaq coming on the road trip is] a possibility, I actually heard that there's a chance, but I don't expect it," Rivers told ESPN Boston Saturday. "I can tell you I've heard different things. I just think that's too optimistic, in my opinion, just being around the game long enough to know that, when they take the boot off, you usually don't play a day later. And I don't see him flying on the plane, getting the boot off -- I just think that's unrealistic.

"There's a better chance -- when do we come home, next Sunday? There's a better chance there [versus Detroit] and I actually don't think that's realistic. It's more likely the game after that [versus Philadelphia]. That would be our target date for Shaq. And I don't even know if that one is [going to hold firm]."

It's been an on again, off again situation with Shaq and his giant foot the past few months. Shaq has not played since Feb. 1 due to a sore right Achilles tendon, missing 23 games. Shaq recently had a cortizone shot in his foot and was put back in an immobilizing boot.

If O'Neal returns by April 5, he still would have six games to get prepared and in game shape before the first round of the playoffs begin April 16.

A large reason Danny Ainge stamped the approval on trading starting center Kendrick Perkins is because he believes Shaq, once healthy, will be every bit the big man in the middle the Celtics need.

But everyone is still waiting on that day. Now maybe it's April 5. Maybe. It's kind of getting to the point where I'll believe it when I see it.

Category: NBA
Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Shaq to return April 1?

Posted by Royce Young

Boston needs its big man back, bad. And finally, he might be on his way back to the court. According to ESPN Boston, Shaquille O'Neal is set to return April 1.

Shaq has not played since Feb. 1 due to a sore right Achilles tendon, missing 22 games. A large reason Danny Ainge stamped the approval on trading starting center Kendrick Perkins is because he believes Shaq, once healthy, will be every bit the big man in the middle the Celtics need.

Without him, Boston has struggled to find consistency inside. Glen Davis has done yeoman's work, but he just doesn't have the size. Troy Murphy isn't a good enough paint presence to defend. Nenad Krstic has been fine since joining the team, but again, isn't quite the defensive stopper the Celtics need inside.

Add Shaq in though and now the Celtics have a bit of depth. Shaq starts, Krstic backs him up and adds an extra offensive punch off the bench and now Big Baby goes back to his normal role of backing up Kevin Garnett. It will be interesting though to see if Doc Rivers still goes small with Davis at the 5 instead of Shaq in crunch time situations. Something to watch for once Shaq returns.

But with the Celtics struggling as of late, getting help for the last two weeks of the season and heading into the playoffs is huge. Again, the trade was made with it in midn that one of the O'Neals would be back to help. And it looks like the better one in Shaq will be available for the postseason.

Not that the Eastern Conference is that strong inside, but to get over a team like the Bulls that feature Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer on their frontline, the Celtics desperately need Shaq. Krstic and Davis just won't cut it there. The question is how healthy he'll be, because before the injury, he was playing really well in his limited role.

If he's back in form, the Celtics may survive the curious Perkins trade and have a little extra depth with Krstic and Jeff Green to go with it. But a lot hinges on a 39-year-old's achilles, which is a scary thing.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 10:02 pm
 

Kobe Bryant passes Moses Malone on scoring list

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has passed Moses Malone on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant continued his ascent up the NBA's all-time scoring list during Tuesday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks, moving past Hall of Fame center Moses Malone into sixth place. 

Bryant entered the game 12 points behind Malone and notched his 11th, 12th and 13th points at the free throw line, after being fouled while shooting a three-pointer with 2:04 remaining in the second quarter. 

Malone scored 27,409 points in 1,329 games during his career. Bryant reached that mark in his 1,086th game, 243 games faster than Malone. 

Bryant began the 2010-2011 NBA season in 12th place on the all-time list. This year he has passed (in order): John Havlicek (26,395), Dominique Wilkins (26,668), Oscar Robertson (26,710), Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) and Elvin Hayes (27,313). 

The only active player in front of Bryant is Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant's former teammate in Los Angeles. O'Neal is currently in fifth place on the list, roughly 1,100 points ahead of Bryant. Given the distance between those two players, it's a virtual certainty that Bryant will conclude this season in sixth place. The next closest active player? Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who is 22nd all-time.

The top four scorers in NBA history are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419). Back in January , we took a look at Bryant's career scoring trajectory and how it's likely that he will finish his career no lower than third all-time.

The Lakers defeated the Hawks, 101-87, in Atlanta. Bryant finished with 26 points. 
Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:51 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Shaquille O'Neal out indefinitely with sore foot

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Posted by Ben Golliver. shaq-asw

Update: The Boston Globe reports on Monday that O'Neal will miss at least a week.
Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal, plagued by various nagging injuries, has played in just 36 games this season and hasn't made an appearance since February 1.

CSNNE.com reports that O'Neals absence will continue indefinitely due to "right foot soreness."  
The Celtics have no idea when the 7-foot-1 center, who turned 39 years old Sunday, will return to action. When asked about O'Neal and a likely return date, coach Doc Rivers acknowledged he had no idea. "[O'Neal] worked out with us the other day," Rivers said. "Some of the pain returned."
Rivers spoke with Ed Lacerte, the team's head trainer. "Eddie just said don't expect him anytime soon," Rivers said.
The Celtics haven't missed a beat in O'Neal's absence, or anyone else's for that matter. Boston has seen virtually every member of its rotation miss time due to injury this season - and they recently traded starting center Kendrick Perkins - but it hasn't impacted their ability to roll through the regular season. 

Without O'Neal, the Celtics have played more small ball as they work to integrate center Nenad Krstic (acquired for Perkins) and free agent big man Troy Murphy, who was signed to bolster their frontcourt depth. As of Monday, the Celtics sat atop the Eastern Conference with a sparkling 46-15 record.

O'Neals numbers have taken a big hit this year - he's averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.7 minutes - and the end is fast approaching. At this point of the season and at this juncture of the 39 year old O'Neal's career, it's naive to maintain hope that he will be in tip top shape come playoff time. With that said, his raw size and ability to give fouls against guys like Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and Andrew Bynum would be a huge asset for Rivers. But Boston's roster is as asset-rich as any in the league, even with a sidelined Shaq. 
Posted on: February 11, 2011 1:34 am
 

Lakers play their part as the drama continues

Lakers take a big game from banged-up Celtics, prove the worth of Bynum. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Come now, Boston. You didn't think it would be that easy, did you?

The Lakers did their part in furthering the drama towards the inevitable Thursday night, downing the Celtics 92-86 in Boston. Each team has a win on one another's home floor. Each has a championship over the other since 2008. Each features aging superstars trying to pull one more run out of the struggle of injury and the grind of the 82-game season. In Los Angeles, it was Celtics execution overcoming the one-man Kobe show. In Boston? It was Bryant, looping baseline, drawing the double and dropping off to Pau Gasol, then working Ray Allen over like he was some rook on his way to the dagger elbow jumper. 

Even again. 

And now it's the Celtics left questioning themselves. Where is the offense going to come from? Why is Paul Pierce having so many turnovers in the clutch this year? How on Earth are the Celtics, even when Shaq and/or Jermaine O'Neal get back going to counter the Lakers' size, should they choose not to dish Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony

And for the Lakers, the ultimate case of reassurance. They weren't just lost, just bored. They weren't out of sync, just lying in wait. This win, even over a banged-up Celtics squad proves that the concerns about the Lakers were unfounded. They're fine. They're focused, when they need to be, and they will be there in June, waiting for Boston to survive the Eastern Conference gauntlet. 

If Jim Buss was searching for some sign to prompt him to move Bynum in the Melo deal, it did not come tonight. Instead he found a team that simply is taller, longer, and more obstructive to the opponents' efforts in the paint with Bynum, and that is their biggest strength. Kobe Bryant is a killer, there's no question about that. But the Lakers thrive on being able to capture offensive rebound after offensive rebound, like the one that lead to the reset and Kobe-elbow-jumper to end it. The highlight reel will show Bryant breaking Allen's ankles (while Rajon Rondo simply watches for some reason, instead of comitting to the help-and-recover).  But the play was set up by the Lakers size providing them an offensive rebound. 

Sure, there was some voodoo going on with L.A., the usual Phil Jackson mind games. But the aesthetics are just a backdrop to the cold hard truth. The Celtics have to try and overcome physical advantage with mental effort. And while a victory of that sort may feel better than the alternative, it is because it is so much more difficult. Shaq may have made an impact. J.O. may have made an impact. But we saw Bynum make an impact, and we saw a Celtics team that just ran out of steam, much like it did in Game 7. 

The first game is not to be forgotten, however. In truth, these two teams are simply evenly matched. They are the best two teams, top to bottom, in the NBA. And once again, with their next meeting likely in June, these two are right back where they started. Even. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com