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Camp Report: Doc Rivers won’t alternate centers in Celtics’ starting lineup

10.05.10 at 3:26 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Speaking after the Celtics‘ practice Tuesday, Doc Rivers said that he doesn’t plan on rotating Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal in the starting lineup depending on match-ups, instead going with one consistent starter until Kendrick Perkins returns from his knee injury.

“I doubt it. I don’t usually do that,” said Rivers when asked if he was going to alternate between two big men. “I usually just go with one, and that’s what we’ll do. I’m going to wait until the end of camp and the best big wins.”

Regarding if he feels it makes a big difference which of the two get the starting nod, Rivers said, “It doesn’t. I think it’s going to come down to who we feel is going to give us the best chance to get off to a good start.” The Celtics’ coach also noted that he doesn’t expect to play both Jermaine and Shaquille on the floor at the same time.

Jermaine is still out with a left hamstring injury, and won’t play in the Celtics’ preseason opener at the Verizon Center in Manchester, N.H. Wednesday night. Shaquille, on the other hand, will get some playing time, along with the other healthy Celts, including Delonte West, who had been battling a sore back. “If guys have anything, they’re not playing.

“I think Shaq is in phenomenal shape,” Rivers added. Asked if he had lost weight the coach said jokingly, “I have no idea. I’ll tell you who would know, the other bigs. Ask them.”

GO HARD OR GO HOME: The Celtics will conduct what Rivers classified as “hard” practice prior to heading up to Manchester Wednesday afternoon. “We’ll practice hard tomorrow, go right to the bus, and then to the arena,” the coach said. “Some of the guys are going to be tired.” Rivers said he uses the first couple of preseason games to “tell you what you should be looking at.”

“We’re just going to go hard, and if somebody falls, they’re going to fall,” Rivers also said in regard to balancing getting ready for the season and not incurring any more injuries. “They’re playing hard, they’re playing really well. We do need to see somebody else, I’ll tell you that. And we need to see the NBA officials. Other than that, I’m happy so far where we’re at.”

SEMIH-EXCITED: Rivers has been impressed with the play of Semih Erden’s play thus far, saying of the 24-year-old, 7-foot-1 center, “We’re going to need Semih, and I keep saying that. I don’t know when, but he’ll be the axe in the glass: In case you need you have to break it. That may happen a lot, and I think it will happen a lot. Semih knows how to play basketball. He doesn’t know our stuff yet, but that will come.”

When asked about Erden’s play, Shaquille’s initial response was, “Semih Crawford? Yes, she’s gorgeous.” The center then went on to praise his rookie counterpart.”

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: The biggest piece of the puzzle that the Celtics seem intent on working on in the coming days is their overall timing.

“It’s getting there. I’ve been on teams where you get it right away, and I’ve been on teams where you get it at the right time. We have to have everybody master in March and April ‘€¦ I’m not really concerned about being a perfect team right now,” Shaq said. “All the guys are unselfish. All the guys play hard. All the guys play smart. So we’re going to have our ups and downs, but that’s only going to make us stronger.”

When it was pointed out that he managed to make a few free throws down the stretch in the Celtics’ intra-squad scrimamge, O’Neal looked down at the reporter who asked if he was excited over making the buckets and said, “I don’t get pumped. I get pumped in June. I can’t wait to stick your face in some clam chowder.”

GETTING A VISIT: Attending practice was former Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson, Westford’s Jim Todd, who had been an assistant with Woodson with the Hawks, and Mike Jarvis.

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