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Doc Rivers sounds a hopeful tone on Shaquille O’Neal 04.04.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers is holding out hope that he may get Shaquille O’Neal back by the end of the week after the big man strained his right calf on Sunday night in his first game back since early February.

“He may play at the end of the week,” said Rivers following Monday’s practice, which included every player except O’Neal. “We’re just not sure yet. If that’s what it requires. We’re going to do whatever they tell us is required. Other than that, I would love to play him, honestly, a couple of game.”

Rivers indicated O’Neal would definitely miss Tuesday’s home game against the 76ers after playing just six minutes in Sunday’s 101-90 win over the Pistons.

“If we can get that up to 20 minutes, that would be great. He looked agile. His energy was high. As far as his [six] minutes of play, that was good.”

Meanwhile, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy both returned to practice on Monday and are expected to give a try on Tuesday night at TD Garden. “I thought Nenad was tentative, honestly, but he got through the whole practice and that was good,” Rivers said of Krstic, who suffered only a bruised knee last Thursday in 10 minutes of play at San Antonio. Murphy rolled his ankle in practice on March 24 and has missed the last six games.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics rotating rotations at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Unlike the last three years, when Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has had his rotation locked into place heading into the playoffs — whether Kevin Garnett was healthy (2008, 2010) or not (2009) — this postseasonseason will be a guessing game, at least for the first round.

As he said postgame — and Paul Flannery detailed when he nailed his Three-Pointer column — Rivers knows exactly what he wants it to be, and what he’s always wanted it to be this season.

“We’re not getting that set. That’s going to be just tough. What we have to do is get everyone on the same page, rhythm-wise. As far as rotations, I know it. It’s set. But we just got to get it together. We’ll be ready. If everyone’s healthy, I can tell you, I know it. I just haven’t seen it.”

On paper, it’s written. On the court? Rivers doesn’t know what it’s actually going to be. Therein lies the problem. The Celtics will be relying on the unkown — on chemistry, rhythm, whatever you want to call it — more during this playoff run than any other over the past three seasons.

It’s not the first half of the rotation that’s a problem. The Big Four were always going to be relied on for 30-40 minutes a game in the playoffs, and that hasn’t changed. It’s the uncertainty at center, Jeff Green‘s role and the expectations for Delonte West that cause problems.

The fact remains that Rivers is relying on a rotation that’s never actually been put into action on the court. Here’s what the Celtics coach told the Chicago Sun-Times:

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With Shaq hurt again, having Jermaine O’Neal back is a good start for the Celtics at 8:59 am ET
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Just like the rest of the season for the Celtics’ bigs, Sunday didn’t exactly turn out the way Doc Rivers and company planned.

Jermaine O’Neal got the clearance to start his first game since early November and Rivers thought, with Shaquille O’Neal coming back for the first time since early February, he would finally have some depth at the position that’s been – pardon the terrible pun – the team’s Achilles.

J-O played nearly seven of the 12 first-quarter minutes and was getting his feet wet in his third game back from a left knee scope. He finished with five points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. But it wasn’t until the shootaround Sunday evening that he felt confident enough to let Rivers know he was comfortable starting the game.

“Felt good, felt good to be back, it’s just going to be about progression, [Sunday] was probably the first day felt sore coming to the game,” O’Neal said. “Didn’t even know I was going to start until the shoot around, but we got into the weight room, did some legs stuff. But that’s just part of the process. [Monday], I’ll get a practice in, get acquainted with the new system. They’ve changed some plays some I’m kind of learning on the fly and asking Rondo at the same time during the game, where I’m supposed to be.”

That general soreness and stiffness was not a concern to O’Neal since it had nothing to do with his left knee.

“I’ve never been concerned about the knee being sore and having set backs,” O’Neal said. “It’s more about the body being sore with the banging and stuff like that. But I’ve passed all the tests that I’m supposed pass so I’m pretty excited about that.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Celtics sign Saleh, add frontcourt depth 04.01.11 at 12:07 pm ET
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Danny Ainge's signing of Saleh adds depth to the Celtics frontcourt. (AP)

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

With the concerns about the health of all three of their potential starting centers — Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal — the Celtics have added depth at the position by signing former Winabi Parish School standout power forward Saleh, according to Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation

“Do the names [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Manute Bol or Dikembe Mutombo mean anything to you?” said Jimmy Dolan, a former assistant coach at Saint Joe’s College who represents Saleh.

Dolan discovered Saleh at a 1994 faculty dinner while watching a film about Saint Joe’s missionary efforts in Africa. Also a member of Saint Joe’s 1981 NCAA title team, Dolan represented the 35-year-old Saleh in the C’s negotiations of a $40,000 deal — or the equivalent of 40 cows — with the 6-foot-9 post who possesses a “vertical leap that’s off the charts.”

“I would like to play for the Celtics very, very much,” said Saleh, who learned about the NBA in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. “My father is a stubborn man. He says I have a lot to learn before I’m a leader.”Asked if he’s ready for the NBA, Saleh added, “Does a zebra have stripes?”

Saleh agreed to sign with the Celtics after leading his Winabi squad to a comeback victory against rival Mingori, 57-56. Without their starting point guard, his team trailed by 10 with a little more than two minutes to play, but Saleh sparked an 11-0 run, capped by his game-winning windmill dunk as time expired — a move he dubbed “The Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake.”

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Jon Barry on Celtics winning Eastern Conference: ‘I think they will’ 03.31.11 at 11:25 am ET
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Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show, ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said despite the Celtics’ recent struggles, he still believes they will win the Eastern Conference when it’s all said and done. (To listen to the entire interview, click here.)

“I don’t put a lot of stock what happens at the end of the regular season,” Barry said. “Last year the Lakers lost 7 of 10 and went on to win the thing. Boston was 27-27 their last 54 and got to the Finals in the seventh game. So I wouldn’t read too much into this. But I’m a bit concerned because I really thought they were the best team with Kendrick Perkins on their roster. Now I think they let the pack in a little bit closer to them. I still think they can win the East and I think they will, but I think they’ve brought the other teams back to where they have a better opportunity to beat them.

“I like their experience,” Barry added. “I think Chicago has had a tremendous year but this is a team that hasn’t gone past the first round. The Miami Heat I think still aren’t ready to do it, come playoff time they’re not built for playoff basketball. I do believe the Celtics will come back and circle the wagons and be ready to go and be the team to beat in the East.”

Barry explained that he was taken aback at how much trading Perkins away has affected the Celtics.

“I’m a bit surprised,” the analyst said. “This was the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference with Kendrick Perkins playing 12 games. The impact that he’s made on the floor obviously hasn’t been that big and they’ve played through it. I’m a bit surprised that they’re losing games. They haven’t been able to score. Their execution late in games has been poor. It’s kind of been there bugaboo the last few years.”

Some of the other topics touched on by Barry …

The Celtics recent struggles: “Obviously, since the Kendrick trade this team has not played well. [Rajon] Rondo in particular has not played well. We know how close he was with Kendrick Perkins. I know he has a pinky issue. There’s been no bones about it that these guys are unhappy that Kendrick’s left. Doc Rivers has felt the same way and they got to find a way to crank it back up here as we get started her in couple weeks for the real season.”

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Doc Rivers: This is what happens when our ‘butts got tight’ 03.26.11 at 12:40 pm ET
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So – like any parent would with their misbehaving, unmotivated teenaged child – Doc Rivers has laid down the law.

He warned his kids, err his players, with five minutes left in Friday night’s sleepwalker against the Bobcats that if they won the game, fine, but you’re doing it on your own. Alas, the Celtics never recovered from blowing a 13-point lead, allowing the 28-42 Bobcats to go on a 16-0 run en route to a 83-81 win over the Celtics.

The natural first question afterward was whether Rivers was shocked. Rivers gave a qualified answered.

“No, the way we’re playing shocks me,” Rivers said. “Our attitude shocks me. We’re just not ready to win any games right now the way we play, the way our approach is to basketball games. I told them that with about five minutes left. I said if we win great, you find your own way. Right now, I just think we’ve become very, very selfish. Not just as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we’re playing individually. Instead of how the team is playing. You can see it, a guy struggles, he pouts, he mopes. Everything is me, me, me on our team right now. Feeling sorry for themselves, instead of giving themselves to the team and playing.”

And Rivers reiterated the ‘lack of urgency’ message delivered by Paul Pierce following Wednesday’s loss to Memphis.

“You can just see it manifest throughout the team,” Rivers said. “Until we can get through that we will continue to have results like we had tonight. Clearly should have won the game. I thought the starting unit in particular, came in casual in the fourth quarter, assuming they were going to win the game. No urgency. Then all of the sudden when the game got won, their butts got tight.

When you got that 11-point lead, the shots aren’t easy anymore. I always say it, you screw around with the game and the game will screw around with you. Either I’m doing a terrible job getting to them or right now they just aren’t there. I don’t know why, it’s my job to figure it out though.”

There was the rebound by 5-foot-11 D.J. Augustin in the paint while Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis watched. The rebound was put back for a go-ahead layup with 3:56 left. And the crowd began to leave.

“We deserve it,” Rivers said. “Everything they did we deserve. I’m not going to comment on individual plays. I just think we deserve everything that happened. It had nothing to do with soft. I could care less about their slumps. It’s not hard, you keep playing. You play hard. You’re not going to play well every night, but it can’t be about you. It’s got to be let me do something else to help the team.”

As for comparisons to last year when they suffered home-court losses to the Nets and Wizards late in the season, Rivers said they don’t hold water since it was he who was holding out his players.

“Nothing like this. Last year I shut them down,” Rivers said. “They were injured. They’re not injured. They’re not playing well.”

Are they bored?

“Yeah, Yeah, I think so,” Rivers said, before pausing and adding, “Last year we lost Game 7 [NBA finals] on the road.”

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Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions 03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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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?

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