There will be no mystery when the Celtics  open their first round playoff series with the Knicks on Sunday. Shaquille O’Neal  will not play. Whether he will be available beyond the opener is still a day-to-day proposition, but they made the decision about Game 1 after O’Neal attempted to practice Saturday.
“We tried to get him out there to practice today to simulate the game as much as we could and he’s not ready,” team president Danny Ainge said. “We don’t know when he’ll be ready. We’ll just keep evaluating him day to day.”
In a break from standard protocol, the Celtics made Ainge and team doctor Brian McKeon available to the press while the team was practicing at their facility on Saturday. They said that O’Neal arrived at 10 a.m. and went through two hours of treatment and massage therapy. He took the floor at noon for the start of practice, but after a few minutes of running they made the decision to shut him down.
“This guy has been working his tail off. He’s been working so, so hard,” McKeon said. “Today we did like a mock trial, pregame workout and he failed. It didn’t work. It’s just too sore. We’ll get back to work tomorrow. He’s made progression every day. This is a tough injury. The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor, it’s just time. I was telling Danny and the coaches that in the last 20 years, this is one area of medicine we’ve made no progress. Because it’s just time. It’s hard to get enough healing potential in that area.”
O’Neal is still dealing with the same Achilles strain that kept him out of the lineup for 27 games. He attempted to come back on April 3 against the Pistons, but lasted just five minutes before straining his calf. The two injuries are related, McKeon said. He added that O’Neal doesn’t need surgery and the best treatment is rest, along with the usual therapy and conditioning work. Essentially, O’Neal simply needs more time.
Asked if there was a point when the Celtics would shut him down for the rest of the playoffs, Ainge said, “When the season’s over, I guess. He may come back in three days and feel like it’s better. The longer we wait the better chance he has of being healthy.”
Shaq went through a walkthrough on Thursday, but didn’t practice Friday so this didn’t come as a surprise to the rest of the team. “We’re ready,” Doc Rivers  said. “We kind of anticipated it. We didn’t really know, but we’ll be ready.”
With Shaq out, Jermaine O’Neal  will become the nominal starter.
“If he doesn’t come back or Shaq, then we would have some problems,” Rivers said. “Having J.O. gives us a luxury and that’s why Danny went out and signed two guys, so we have one. Right now I’ll take it.” Asked how many minutes Jermaine O’Neal can play, Rivers said, “I think J.O. can give us as many minutes as we need.”
Nenad Krstic  will see minutes at the center position, along with Glen Davis . The Celtics can also counter with Kevin Garnett  matching up against Amar’e Stoudemire in some of New York’s smaller lineups. In some ways the Knicks are the perfect team for the Celtics to play without Shaq, but there’s also no question that he would help no matter the opponent.
“Bottom line is, we just want everybody healthy,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. The guy’s put in a lot of work. He’s extremely disappointed that he can’t go. I just told him to keep working. He’s going to play for us. We don’t know when, but he’ll be back.”