|Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock||01.15.11 at 12:15 am ET|
The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.
That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.
On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.
The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”
“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
‘It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.’
On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.
“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.’
It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.
‘You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”
So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?
“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”
As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.
“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. ‘I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.
Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.
|Irish Coffee: Sorting through Celtics speak||01.14.11 at 11:21 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Check out this video of some chick named Kath singing Nate Robison‘s tweets. It starts to get pretty funny around the 53-second mark. My favorite lyric, courtesy of the Celtics’ backup guard: “Don’t you just feel like getting away from the world? I do, just me and my kids — eff everything else.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …
Doc Rivers and Jermaine O’Neal discussed the injury-plagued Celtics on WEEI on Thursday, and Paul Pierce did the same in his blog on Celtics.com. If you listen to the links, you’ll learn a few things, like …
Rivers plans on sticking around for a while, as he discussed the possibility of passing Tommy Heinsohn for second among coaches on the team’s all-time winning list; he’s 119 games away, which would put him on the bench for at least another two seasons:
“Yeah, I could. That would be nice. That would mean that we’re doing well and playing well. That still takes a while. That would be nice to do. I would say that.”
Despite his original insistence that Kevin Garnett‘s absence didn’t hurt them in their loss to the Rockets, Rivers admitted that indeed the defense is falling apart without their All-Star forward:
“We watched tape the other day of our transition defense, and it screamed of no Kevin — that voice of telling guys to get back, get to your spot, look left, pick-and-roll defense. … It’s like losing the linebacker on your team who leads your team and tells everybody where they should go. Not having that hurts your defense.”
According to Rivers, Garnett is day-to-day but not ready to return yet, which seems to me like more than day-to-day:
“I hate dates, if you know what I mean. If anyone says two weeks or a week, that’s silly, because you don’t know how long anything’s going to take. He is day-to-day, very close, but just not ready yet.”
According to Jermaine O’Neal, his role on this team is to defend the pick-and-roll, block shots and rebound — which seems pretty simple for a guy who makes more than Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden combined:
“This team is built a certain way, and it’s one of the rare teams that is really a system team, and it needs different components for the system to run right. You don’t need two batteries in the motor. You need different parts in the car to make it run, and I’m one of those parts — to help defensively to stop the pick and roll, block shots and get some rebounds.”
O’Neal also admitted that in-season knee surgery is not completely out of the question:
“That was definitely something we talked about the first time I was out for an extended period of time. We wanted to try a couple options, and that may be something that we’re looking at now. It’s something I will eventually need at the end of the season. You want to be around, and you don’t want to miss an extended period of time, and I’ve already done that. So, you make decisions as a player. … We’re going to make a decision on what’s best for me to get better, be done with the ailment and be back on the court full-time.”
The Celtics’ backup bigman believes that — if healthy — the Celtics are pretty much unstoppable:
“To have one of the best records in the league, and we haven’t had a full complement of players all year, that makes us feel a certain way. We feel like once we do get everyone back it’s going to be extremely, extremely tough to beat our team.”
“We’re taking it game by game. Fighting through injuries with Shaq, Jermaine, Rajon, Nate and Semih and KG all dinged up. It hurt me a lot to see Delonte go down with the broken wrist, but in the NBA, it’s always go time, so we can’t lose our focus when something like that happens.”
Good times all around. If the Celtics can hobble through Friday night’s game against the Bobcats, they’ll have two days off before facing the Magic on Monday. By then, Garnett could be back in the lineup for a much-needed boost.
CELTICS’ TRADE CHIPS
The NBA trade deadline is approaching in February, so HoopsWorld is detailing where each team stands in terms of needs, trade bait and salary cap. Here’s how they depict the Celtics:
Notable Trade Chips: Von Wafer (one year/$900K), Avery Bradley (two years/$3 million plus team options for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014), Marquis Daniels (one year/$2.5 million), Glen Davis (one year/$3.3 million), Luke Harangody (two years/$1.2 million) and Nate Robinson (two years/$8.7 million).
Salary Cap Situation: The Celtics are nearly $31 million over the cap this season and are $7.4 million over the luxury tax threshold.
Trade Exceptions: None
Their contention that the Celtics will be looking to deal for a backup point guard and center is fairly ridiculous, considering they’ll be adding West and Perkins over the next month, but it is at least worth noting who has value around the league and how much the C’s owners are investing in this team.
|Shootaround: Delonte West looks smooth in practice||01.13.11 at 8:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Delonte West continues to work on shooting drills before and after practice as he rehabs his broken right wrist.
With a protective brace on his right wrist, West can dribble to his left and right but has yet to be cleared to return to contact in practice. He is still two weeks away from beginning his formal rehab to strengthen the wrist.
West suffered a nasty fracture of the wrist on Nov. 24 against the Nets at TD Garden. The initial prognosis was that he would be lost for the regular season and was “hopeful” to return for the playoffs.
But following surgery on the wrist, West has been steady progress and last week received good news that he could discard the hard cast and go with just the protective brace. He is still at least two weeks away from aggressive rehab on the wrist and is hopeful to return to action sometime at or around the All-Star break.
WALTHAM — In a sign that he is close to returning to game action, Kevin Garnett took part in contact practice with the Celtics on Thursday for the first time since straining his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. Coach Doc Rivers said that Garnett participated in a little more than half the practice, going through plays and running up and down the court but ruled him out of Friday’s home game against Charlotte.
“He went through half the practice or more than that, actually,” Rivers said. “He looked pretty good. He’s not playing [Friday] but he looked pretty good. Besides just his wind, I thought his movement was very good. I want to see him another practice but he’s getting close.”
Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon checked out Garnett and cleared him to participate in all of the contact drills and plays in practice.
“That was him and Eddie, they just thought he could go and Dr. McKeon, all three, thought he’s fine so we let him go,” Rivers added. “There were a couple of times I wanted him off the floor and he stayed on the floor and did all the pick-and-roll defense live. We went up and down and he did all that live.”
The Celtics are 5-3 in the eight games without Garnett in the lineup.
“This is who we are right now,” Rivers said in announcing the latest injuries to hit the Celtics‘ front court.
Jermaine O’Neal had an MRI Thursday on his sore left knee that acted up in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston.
Rivers is concerned that surgery will likely be needed to correct the issue.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said following practice Thursday. “I know he did [have] an MRI. Honestly, my guess is they’re going to have to do something. So, I don’t know that. I’m just using my doctorate right now. My guess is they’ll probably have to do something.”
Complicating matters is a groin pull sustained by back-up center Semih Erden, which kept him out of practice Thursday and limited the Celtics to nine healthy players. With Kevin Garnett still out with a strained right calf, Kendrick Perkins (right knee) not yet cleared for contact practice and Shaquille O’Neal getting limited minutes to save his stamina for later in the season, the Celtics are struggling with depth in the front court.
“It puts more pressure on them,” Rivers said of his remaining healthy front-court players. “Semih couldn’t practice today. He has a groin pull. So, that’s what we are. We have 15 players. We’re going to send Avery [Bradley] down [to D-League] pretty soon, too, so he can get some reps playing basketball. I just think he needs to play basketball. It’s part of it.”
The Celtics face Charlotte on Friday night at TD Garden as they continue their season-long six-game homestand, likely without Garnett, Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.
|Irish Coffee: Semih Erden vs. Jermaine O’Neal||at 11:56 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
It’s a hodgepodge edition of Irish Coffee this morning, so stay alert. While Brent Barry may have compared Glen “Big Baby” Davis to an actual baby in the video that accompanies this blog, we’re going to take a look at the per-minute averages of Celtics centers Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden:
J. O’Neal: 0.29 points, 0.21 rebounds, 0.16 personal fouls, 0.07 blocks, 0.06 turnovers, 0.03 assists, 0.01 steals, 44.7 field-goal percentage, 77.8 free-throw percentage.
Erden: 0.28 points, 0.18 rebounds, 0.17 personal fouls, 0.06 turnovers, 0.04 blocks, 0.03 assists, 0.02 steals, 57.7 field-goal percentage, 60.5 free-throw percentage.
After Erden dropped 10 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes against the Kings while O’Neal sat out his 21st game of the season with a sore knee, I thought to myself: Would Erden be a better option than O’Neal? Considering these numbers at this point, why not invest your time in a 24-year-old rookie with room for improvement rather than a 32-year-old veteran who has logged 24,757 minutes and has a sore knee for life?
Paul Flannery has more on the growing concern that is Jermaine O’Neal’s knee in his Three-Pointer.
The difference between the Celtics and Kings is so glaring that Sacramento’s players and coach not only openly admitted that fact, they expressed their desire to essentially grow up to be the C’s:
Kings coach Paul Westphal (via the Sacramento Bee): “You could pick up how they work together to take away your first and second options. They were really on the same page doing that. … They really don’t care who shoots. They run their stuff, and they know they have threats at all the places, and they get the shot they want.”
Kings guard Beno Udrih (also via the Bee): “On offense, nobody’s worrying about who’s going to score. They just hit the guy that’s open. They set screens. They play basketball basically the way it should be played.”
And then there’s my favorite quote of the day, also from Westphal, on the starting matchup between Kings rookie Eugene “Pooh” Jeter (Boston fans have probably used that nickname for another guy) and Rajon Rondo:
|Energy savings pay off for Nate Robinson and the Celtics||at 2:43 am ET|
Doc Rivers may have liked the way his team was playing in the first half than Monday night. He went as far as to say if the Celtics somehow managed to lose Wednesday to the 8-27 Kings at TD Garden, he could sleep well knowing his team played good, solid basketball.
But the truth of the matter is that Celtics fans were downright concerned when they saw the Kings – without their top scorer Tyreke Evans – wipe out an 8-0 lead and actually grab a lead, albeit very brief, in the first quarter. The Celtics kept spinning their wheels in the first half, even with Paul Pierce scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
The Celtics – without big men Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal– looked fatigued and out of rhythm. They needed a spark and Nate Robinson was only too happy to provide it. Robinson came in and made 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-5 from long distance.
Robinson was just 11-for-32 in his six games this month entering Wednesday. His 16 points off the bench provided instant energy and eventually allowed Doc Rivers to give his starters the fourth quarter off.
‘That’s how you have to play every night,” Robinson said. “Play with a lot of energy and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place.’
After allowing the Rockets to make 21-of-34 shots in the second half on Monday, the Celtics – with a 57-49 halftime lead – were determined not to let it happen 48 hours later.
‘Just continue to pick it up on defense,” Robinson said. “We have been lacking the last couple of games. Rebounding was a talking point as well. As a team today we dug down deep. We were like ‘we have to rebound and get stops and run’. We did that and got a lot of easy buckets tonight.
‘Just do things harder. There is always another notch that you can go too. Just pick it up. We have to pick each other up regardless if it’s the starters or second team, everybody has to be tuned in together and play a full 48 minutes.’
Robinson had 16 to lead four bench players in double figures. Another player in double figures, Marquis Daniels with 12, could see what Robinson meant to the Celtics on Wednesday – instant energy and a very important player to help take minutes from Rondo and preserve him for the second half of the season.
‘Little Nate played good tonight,” Daniels said. “He’s shooting the ball real well. He got his bird wings going. He’s playing real good right now. We just have to stay focused and stay hungry.’
In total, Semih Erden, Daniels, Robinson and Von Wafer all scored at least 10 points, outscoring Sacramento’s bench, 56-47. Daniels said it was very refreshing to see not only Robinson but the rest of the bench contribute offensively so the starters could enjoy the rest of the game from their courtside seats.
‘Definitely, I saw Paul icing early, Ray is icing early, Rondo. It’s always a good thing to see those guys icing early,” Daniels said. “We are going to need those guys later down the line.’
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