O’Neals ready to join forces against Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Celtics’ plan when they signed Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal over the summer was to have two veteran giants at their disposal, choosing which of the 7-footers would start and which would be the reinforcement.
But Jermaine O’Neal has been out since Nov. 8 nursing a sore left knee, getting fitted for brace after brace. Shaquille O’Neal has missed nine games because of a bruised right calf. Yet both should be healthy enough to play today against the Magic, which means the Celtics finally will have their two biggest free agent additions on the floor at the same time for the first time since October.
For coach Doc Rivers, it’s felt like forever.
“That’ll be a first, huh?’’ said Rivers. “I think it could happen. We’ll see.’’
Shaquille O’Neal played 27 minutes in the win over the 76ers Wednesday night, scoring 13 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and blocking two shots. It was his second game back after missing four straight.
Jermaine O’Neal hasn’t played since taking himself out of the game in Dallas Nov. 8 because of pain in his knee. Rivers will get a chance to use them both on the floor, but he knows there will be limitations, especially since Jermaine O’Neal’s practice time has been minimal.
“I don’t know if it’s a luxury or not yet,’’ Rivers said. “We’ll find that out. They haven’t played, so we don’t know the group and how well they’ll do. Throwing Jermaine into a game when he hasn’t played — I don’t know when the last time he’s played — that’ll be difficult.’’
The Celtics could be without Semih Erden, who missed yesterday morning’s practice with flu-like symptoms.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to get to a point where all our guys are functioning,’’ Rivers said. “That’s the only thing that hasn’t been great. Even though we’ve had our three-week period now where we’ve just won games, we’re not improving, and during the regular season you’re really trying to improve.’’
Perkins joins team After practicing for the first time earlier this week, Kendrick Perkins joined the team in Orlando and will continue to work out, going through skeleton drills and getting acclimated. “He’s going to be on most of [the trips] now, so that’ll help him,’’ Rivers said. “But he can’t practice live. Just the skeleton stuff. So that’s better than nothing.’’
Rajon Rondo, who’s been out since Dec. 15 when he sprained his ankle in a win over the Knicks, was with the team yesterday morning as well, though Rivers said he likely would be out longer than the two weeks the team originally expected.
The activities he can do on the ankle are limited. He can run, but only straight. He can touch the nets but he can’t dunk.
“Obviously, my body’s been telling me to rest for a long time,’’ Rondo said. “I get injured every two games.’’
Rivers said he’s in no rush to get Rondo back.
“The bottom line with Rajon — and everybody during the regular season — is you don’t come back until you’re 100 percent,’’ Rivers said. “Obviously if it was the playoffs, Rondo may even be able to play, but it’s just not worth it. It’s a long year, we’ve just got to get guys healthy.
“Rondo’s had the hamstring, he had the plantar fasciitis. So with the ankle, this gives him a chance to actually get healthy. It’s not good for us [now]. It’s good for him. In the long run it’ll be good for us.’’
Allen puts it in perspective After receiving an e-mail earlier in the week from Navy Lt. Commander Paul Brawley, Ray Allen took some time before practice to take a phone call from Lt. Commander William Marks and speak to the roughly 5,000 troops on the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier patrolling the waters near Southwest Asia.
“We’re over here complaining about playing on Christmas Day,’’ Allen said. “We’re home, on US soil and able to be in close proximity to our families. But these guys probably haven’t seen their family — some years, some six months, three months, whatever it may be.
“It just always gives us perspective. We get to play this game that we love, we get to do it every single day, and so many people fighting for our freedom are away from their family, so that’s the sacrifice they have to make.’’
Even with all the story lines in the Celtics’ matchup against the Magic, a few of the troops asked him who he was rooting for in the Lakers-Heat game.
Allen said, “Is it possible for both of them to lose?’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.