Shaq says he’s “85 percent,” could be back next week


Danny Ainge has placed a big bet on Shaquille O’Neal. He went from the summer insurance plan to the guy who should be the starting center for the Celtics in the playoffs.

If he’s healthy.

The Celtics yesterday decided to stop guessing when he might be back, but Shaq himself told ESPNBoston — at his birthday party, where he had a cake so big it was sponsored (we’re not making that up) — he was feeling about 85 percent and could be back as soon as next week.

“[The Celtics] want me back at 100 percent,” said O’Neal. “I tried to run on it the other day, felt pretty good, but afterwards we kind of took a step back, so hopefully in a few days, in a week or so, I’ll be back.”

That’s the way the Celtics manage all their injuries — get the guy to 100 percent for the playoffs, if it costs the team regular season games that’s okay. It’s a strategy that worked well last year.

Ainge is betting it works again.