Wake up with the Celtics  and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal  suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal  ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo ?” … “Is Doc Rivers  gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett  obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.
All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show , Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni  and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show . Here are the highlights:
Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot  last Tuesday, what gives?
Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”
Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.
“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …
“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”
KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”
Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?
Doc: “Jermaine will join us in Indiana. I can give you that. That doesn’t mean he’s going to play, but he will join us in Indiana. Danny went down to look at him. I guess he looks great, and that’s a good thing.”
Danny: “I was just in Chicago [Wednesday], watching Jermaine work out. He looks better than he’s looked all year, better than he did in training camp. He’s lost 12 or 13 pounds. He looks bouncier. So, yeah, I think he will be healthy. He doesn’t have to carry a huge load for us. …
“He’s going through these vigorous workouts, he’s in the weight room, he’s doing plyometrics, he’s doing strengthening of his quads and glutes, he’s shooting jump shots, doing the dunking drills — and he’s not had the swelling problem. And that’s the first time all year that that’s happened. … My best guess is that he’ll play in San Antonio, a week from today.”
KG: “I think a lot of people aren’t really paying attention to J.O. He’s obviously been hurt, but he’s been a guy who’s led teams and been a presence and everything. You can’t teach experience, you can’t teach heart, and he brings those things.”
Where has Rajon Rondo’s confidence gone?
Doc: “It’s coming back. He went through a little stretch. He was struggling. I would say the last three games you could see it coming back. Even [Wednesday] night, I thought he forced the issue a little bit, and that was good in some ways. Shots aren’t going in for him, but I think his attacking is back, and that’s good. Before that, I would say, yeah, you’re right.”It happens with a lot of players. It happened with LeBron [James] and Dwyane Wade  at times. It’s just something you go through during the season, and when it’s your point guard — the guy with the ball in his hand — sometimes it has a more dramatic effect.”
Can the Celtics flip the switch in the playoffs like they did last season?
Doc: “Last year and this year are different. I will say that. Last year was more us doing that on purpose — not losing games, but resting guys and going with two-hour practices. We went through training camp last year together, and we used the last 15-20 games as preseason, because we were not healthy and we were trying to get healthy.
“This year, we’re waiting for a couple of our bigs, and there’s no doubt about that. And that will change us; it will change our rotation. When you think about Shaq starting and Nenad [Krstic] coming off the bench with Baby [Glen Davis ], that changes your bench and it makes your bench stronger. But we still have to play better and improve. We have to get our rhythm back, which we have lost in some ways, but we have time to do that. That’s why we need to work.”
Danny: “I think a lot of it is effort, and when I say effort I think the guys are a little bit tired. It’s the dog days of the season. We’ve had a lot of injuries, so guys have to play through and probably play more. We went through this last year a little bit. Our guys have been there, done that, and they know the playoffs are around the corner. Sometimes I sense that they don’t understand the urgency of the games we’re playing right now and that we’re letting an opportunity such as homecourt slip by. …
“When we won the games against New Orleans and New York, what was the difference in the game? Well, the difference was Ray Allen  started making shots. Paul Pierce  took the game over. KG played like an all-star. Rondo played like an all-star. That’s the difference in the game. It’s just that. Our main guys have gotta play really well, and they’ve had great years, but when they play normal and they play average, then we’re an average team. It’s that simple.”
KG: “What you’ve got to understand is that we’re playing without the big fella and we’re playing without J.O. So, to say that we don’t have the same physical presence, you’re right, we don’t, because [Kendrick Perkins ] was a real physical presence. But we also have on our roster Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. …
“Perk was out for a while, and we had to play without him, and we were still a firm team. I guess what I’m saying is that we’re still a firm team, playing without major pieces. I really want to see us full throttle. I really want to see everybody on the roster, on the team, on the bench, playing minutes and rotations.”
What exactly does Troy Murphy  bring to the Celtics?
Doc: “He’s struggled. Troy’s not a big guy. It’s not like Troy’s going to be an enforcer. Troy’s a guy that’s gonna spread the floor. If we’re waiting for Troy Murphy to be our guy that stops guys in the middle of the paint, then we really do have issues. Troy’s not size. Again, Troy is a guy that spreads the floor, a guy that you’ll use when you’re going small. But Troy is not size. Nenad and Baby and Kevin Garnett give you size more than Troy.”
How has Jeff Green  adjusted to his role off the bench?
Danny: “I think Jeff has been one of our most consistent and productive players in the short minutes that he’s played off the bench. I think it is tough to do from an attitude standpoint, and it’s a credit to Jeff. I think he’s one of the classiest kids in the NBA and one of the most proffessional guys around in how he approaches his job, so I’m not worried about that at all. Jeff has done a fantastic job of finding ways to be productive.”
Are the Celtics softer without Kendrick Perkins, as Rivers indicated  at halftime against the Knicks?
KG: “I don’t think there was a guy in the locker room that was feeling that. We told him after the game, ‘Don’t ever say nothing like that again. We might square up or something.’ And he was cool with that. He knows how to get us motivated and knows how to push buttons. He knows us. …
“We’ve embraced Jeff [Green]. We’ve embraced Nenad. We’ve been building chemistry since they’ve gotten here and made them feel really welcome, getting them to undertand the level and the discipline and the professionalism and all the other things that come along with becoming a Celtic — the responsiblity of playing hard every night. We’ve set that precedent here.
“One thing we hang our hat on is that we’re workers. We’re hard workers. We come here, we grind, we put our hard hat on, and we try to get better. We just don’t float through the motions. We suit up, we come here, we get something done and then we get outta here.
“Off the floor, we deal with each other, When you see us, we’re probably going to be seven or eight guys together. We socialize with each other. Not one guy gets stuck with the bill. We like each other, and you know what? That’s very rare in our league.
“JG, Nenad and Sasha [Pavlovic] are like brothers. It’s kind of weird. Usually, when you’re on a team, you’ve got one or two guys that deal with each other, and then people have their own little cliques. Here, we are a team, and we are a team of brothers, and we really live that. I think JG loves that. Nenad loves that.
“Troy told me the other day that he’s never seen a team where everybody on the team is together almost 24-7. That’s probably why we damn near about to choke each other at times, but that’s also why we’re so close and why the chemistry is the way it is, too.
“People fail to realize that Perk was one of the parts of our team that made us really, really good. He made us tough, but we had built that chemistry and rapport with him — just as we have with Shaq and J.O., who are very, very physical players who bring a similar type of presence. Not taking anything away from Perk.
“Every player has something that he brings to our team. I will definitely agree that with Perk we had a style of play that worked for us. With Nenad and everybody in our lineup, I can say that we’re a similar firm team. …
“The process in which we’re going through right now is on-the-go learning. Guys are understanding our schemes, but trying to get it down, trying to understand what energy we go at it, how we go at it, how hard we go at our schemes. …
“We’re a defensive team. We don’t play like we’re an offensive team. Every night, we say that we’re going to stop this other team, and then we say that we’re going to execute and try to turn it over into some offensive plays. So, trying to teach that and getting guys to undertand what we’re doing here and how we do it is a challenge. But I don’t like to use that as a crutch.”
Will Doc Rivers return as the Celtics head coach next season?
Danny: “Doc knows that we want him, and we’ve had contract discussions. Doc doesn’t really like to discuss those things during the season. He doesn’t like to draw attention to himself, and he doesn’t like it when players are worried about individual contracts and things. He doesn’t even really like the discussion about contracts, but him and I have talked privately and I’m sure we’ll have more conversation before the year’s over.”To what extent has Tennessee shown interest in hiring Lawrence Frank ?
Danny: “Lawrence is committed to just coaching with us. His contract runs out with us at the end of this year as well. I have a feeling that he’ll be a candidate for a handful of opportunities and options. He’ll have a lot of options, or at least he should have a lot of options this summer. I don’t know to what extent he’s a real candidate at Tennessee. I have not received a call from Tennessee asking for permission to talk to Lawrence about a coaching job.” What is Garnett’s fascination with HBO’s “Big Love”?
KG: “I am an addict fan of ‘Big Love.’ I’ve been following since it came out. I will admit that. It’s a great show. It’s all about the polygamists and the whole underground. They saw it’s fiction, but obviously some of the stuff is kind of parallel to what’s going on in reality, so I had to go to Danny [Ainge] just to get some understanding of it. But, yeah, I’m a huge, huge fan of ‘Big Love.’ … That and ‘Spartacus.’ Those are my two shows. I’ve got some others, but those are my favorites right there.”
DERRICK ROSE  ON CELTICS: ‘THAT’S A GOOD TEAM’
Now that you’ve heard just about everything you’d want to hear from the Celtics front office, coaching staff and players, it’s time to turn to the C’s most important opponent down the stretch. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau  and likely MVP Derrick Rose discussed the Celtics  with ESPN.com …
Rose on Celtics: “[They’re] a veteran team. They’ve been doing that for a long time where they know everything. They’ve won a championship together. They have a lot of confidence in what they do. They trust each other and they’re just trying to win no matter what. They don’t care about their stats or anything. They just want to hoop. …
“That’s a good team over there. The Celtics are a very good team and they’ve been in tough situations before. They play well together, kind of like how we do. We just keep fighting, no matter how much we’re down it’s going to still be a tough game. Right now, we’re just trying to win it out. And for us, [if] winning gets us into that No. 1 spot, we’re fine with it. But if not, we’ll still be thankful we’re in the playoffs.”
Thibodeau on Celtics: “I have a lot of respect for those guys, but I’m concerned with how we’re going to do and how we improve throughout the rest of the season. And I think we got here by our approach and that was just to take one day at a time and focus in on our improvement in that particular practice, then the next opponent, and that’s what we want to continue to do.
“We feel that we’re not going to have to change our style of play once we get to the playoffs. We’ve focused on being a well-balanced team from the start of the season and we want to continue to do that. And then, at the end of the year, it comes down to the teams that are playing the best, and the teams that are the healthiest, and we think we’ve done a good job in those two areas.”
Rose on similarities between Celtics and Bulls: “It’s kind of weird, definitely weird. [Thibodeau will] say something about them, how good they are, and it makes you think about it. Where we’re kind of like the same team. Where we both over-help on the defensive side. Where usually people do that in college, that’s not normal NBA defense I’ll say. Most of the time, NBA teams leave you out on the island. And us, we just help everywhere and we depend on each other.”
Thibodeau on similarities between Celtics and Bulls: “The only way you get playoff experience is by being in the playoffs. This team does have some experience. They’ve been in the playoffs. Luol [Deng] and Jo [Noah] and Derrick for two years. So, for us I think our preparation each day will prepare us for the playoffs.
“But the same things could be said about Boston three years ago. They didn’t have a lot of playoff experience. And the only way they’ve gotten it is by getting there and winning so we’re hopeful to be one of those teams. We feel that if we continue to improve, and the good teams in this league do that throughout the season, that we’ll be prepared for the playoffs.”