UPDATE 2:09 pm: As one would expect, Celtics coach Doc Rivers shot down the report saying Shaquille O’Neal is done for the playoffs.
Our man A. Sherrod Blakely at CSN New England went to the source and talked to Rivers:
I know that’s not true,” Rivers told CSNNE.com. “He’s going to play. I just don’t know when…”
Dr. Brian McKeon, the C’s team doctor, said the 39-year-old has a triceps surae injury which has created pain around his right calf and Achilles tendon that has been too painful for him to play through.
As we said, there were a lot of questions around that report to begin with. Now, we’re really not buying it. Basically, nobody knows. Anyone who says they do is selling something.
1:40 pm: Before you read the rest of this post, go to your cupboard in the kitchen where you keep your spices, grab the salt, and take more than a few grains.
The Eagle-Tribune (a New England paper you haven’t heard of) is reporting sources are telling them Shaquille O’Neal is out for the playoffs.
In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center won’t be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.
It means the other O’Neal — Jermaine, who has had knee problems since opening day, will be the go-to big man with Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic as his backups.
To say there is widespread skepticism about the report is to say that there is unrest in the Middle East or that an inflatable dart board is a bad idea.
The problem is that there is no new information there, just a new bit of speculation. First, every coach with a key injured player has a plan to “move ahead” without him. You have to do that, you can’t have players psychologically waiting for the cavalry to come over the hill. (Bad analogy, not sure what horse could carry Shaq.) You have a plan for his return, too, but you go with the “not coming back” plan until proven otherwise.
Nobody really expects Shaq back before the second round at best anyway. You don’t need to be in the treatment room to tell he is limping, television can do that for you.
But the center that may be key to the Celtics chances is indeed trying to get back. And it could happen — remember we have nearly two months of NBA playoffs left (and Boston may not have looked like a power but they are up 2-0 and will be playing into mid-May at least). Shaq failed a conditioning test and is once again getting treatment and rest. Nobody — not the doctors, not Doc Rivers, not even the ghost of Red Auerbach watching from above — knows when he will return.
So is the report true? Maybe, but it’s really a guess about the future. It wouldn’t shock Celtics fans, but that is different than knowing for sure. The smart money says we really don’t know yet. This is just speculation based on a game plan that had to exist whether he was expected back or not.