Wake up with the Celtics  and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
After Wednesday’s hullabaloo  over a report that the Celtics aren’t expecting Shaquille O’Neal  back for the NBA Playoffs  — which coach Doc Rivers  refuted faster than Rajon Rondo  ran a layup drill against Toney Douglas  — I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing updates about Shaq.
But there’s a slightly new wrinkle to the Shaq drama.
Following Celtics practice on Wednesday, Rivers told reporters, “If you see him on the trip, that means he’s really close.” Well, in an appearance on Boston radio station  KISS 108’s morning radio show Thursday morning, Shaq’s live-in girlfriend — Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander — admitted she and Shaq would indeed be traveling to New York on Thursday.
“Yes, he will be back,” Alexander said during the appearance. “I promise. He’s getting better. A few more days, but he’ll be back. Hopefully, the team can keep going with New York and keep finishing. ‘¦ We’re going up [to New York] today, so we’ll see.”
Rivers ruled Shaq out for Game 3 on Friday but left the possibility for Sunday’s Game 4 on the table. Now, I’m not saying you should put a ton of stock in what “Hoopz” says, but it’s at least worth noting that the Big Shamrock is bound for the Big Apple on the same day the rest of his Celtics teammates will be traveling to New York City.
WHAT ABOUT CHAUNCEY BILLUPS  & AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE?
While we know Shaq’s status for Game 3, the health of Knicks stars Amar’e Stoudemire (pulled back muscle) and Chauncey Billups (left knee strain) remains up in the air. Both could play, or both could not. Although, it appears as though Stoudemire will be the only one taking the Madison Square Garden floor on Friday.
Following his MRI, Stoudemire reportedly received treatment from Knicks therapist David Hancock and remains day-to-day on the official injury report. However, a New York Post source told the paper , “there’s ‘a good chance’ he will be in uniform and attempt to play through the pain [Friday].” Although, another Post source said, ‘He should be Ok, but there’s no assurances when it comes to the back.”
Meanwhile, following his MRI, Billups reportedly had his left knee drained and received a cortisone shot for the pain. Another Post source set the chances of Billups playing in Game 3 at “50-50.” Also, as Post reporter Marc Berman noted, “Before he plays on a bad knee, he also has to weigh his long-term health as team president Donnie Walsh still can decide against exercising the $14 million option on the final year of his contract.”
What are the Celtics’ chances if Stoudemire and Billups — or even just Stoudemire — suit up alongside Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks on Friday? Pretty good, according to some interesting analysis  provided by NBA.com’s John Schuhmann. His chart illustrates New York’s success with all three players, two of the trio or just one of them on the floor …
As Schuhmann noted, “Obviously, the numbers with Billups come from too small a sample size to put much value in them. But it’s clear that the Knicks have been better when they’ve only got Anthony or Stoudemire on the floor, especially defensively, than when both are on the floor together.”
I’m not sure how this statistic fits into the argument, but the Celtics out-rebounded a healthy Knicks team 44-37 in Game 1, but the Knicks out-boarded the Celtics 53-34 with Stoudemire largely a non-factor in Game 2.
CELTICS LAYUP DRILL
The Knicks’ bench has outscored the Celtics’ reserves 46-22 in the first two games. The New York Times looked into the problem , and Doc Rivers told the paper, “I don’t have any lotion or anything I can put on them. You just keep showing them what they can do. … I’m going to play our bench whether they are playing well or not, because they will play well. They just have to. It’s only two games. They’ll come through.” …
Game 2 of the Celtics-Knicks series drew a 3.0 rating  and 4.7 million viewers — an increase of 58 percent in ratings and 65 percent in viewership from 2010. Good luck to NBA commissioner David Stern  arguing that the players need to cut their salaries by a third this offseason. …
From the New York Post : According to Ben Kessler of Seatgeek.com , which studies the secondary market prices for NBA tuickets, tomorrow’s game averaged a whopping $342 — which is well above the average $136 for the next-most expensive game in the Eastern Conference, Game 3 of the Heat at Sixers. The cheapest ticket on the secondary market for tomorrow’s Game 3 is $244, with courtside tickets being sold yesterday as high as $5,000. The Knicks tickets on the secondary market are averaging more than $100 more than the Lakers’ first-round home games at Staples Center . …
This story  — entitled “How These Two White Guys Wound Up In This Kendrick Perkins  Family Photo” — explains all you need to know about why the guys over at Perkisabeast.com and many Celtics fans took it personally when Danny Ainge traded the center.