The plan when the Celtics signed Jermaine and Shaquille OíNeal over the summer was to have two veteran giants at their disposal, picking and choosing which of the 7-footers would start and which would be the reinforcement.
But Jermaine OíNealís been out since Nov. 8 nursing a sore left knee, getting fitted for brace after brace. Shaquille OíNealís missed nine games because of a bruised right calf, But both should be healthy enough to play tomorrow against the Magic, which means the Celtics will finally have their two biggest free agent additions on the floor for at the same time for the first time since October.
For Celtics coach Doc Rivers, itís felt like forever.
ďThatíll be a first, huh?Ē said Rivers ďI think it could happen. Weíll see.Ē
Shaquille OíNeal played 27 minutes in a win over the 76ers Wednesday night, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. It was his second game back after missing four straight. Jermaine OíNeal hasnít played since taking himself out of the game in Dallas a month ago 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.
ďI donít know if itís a luxury or not yet,Ē Rivers said. ďWeíll find that out. They havenít played, so we donít know the group and how well theyíll do. Throwing Jermaine into a game when he hasnít played Ė I donít know when the last time heís played Ė thatíll be difficult.Ē
The Celtics could be without Semih Erden, who missed this morningís practice with flu-like symptoms.
ďAt the end of the day, weíre trying to get to a point where all our guys are functioning," Rivers said. "Thatís the only thing that hasnít been great. Even though weíve had our three-week period now where weíve just won games and during the regular season youíre really trying to improve.Ē
Rondo, Perkins make the trip
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 and getting reacclimated. "Heís going to be on most of [the trips] now, so thatíll help him," Rivers said. "But he canít practice live. Just the skeleton stuff. So thatís 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 this morning as well though Rivers said he would likely 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 (no cuts) He can touch the nets but he can't dunk.
"Obviously, my bodyís 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 Ė and everybody during the regular season Ė is you donít come back until youíre 100 percent," Rivers said. "Obviously if it was the playoffs, Rondo may even be able to play, but itís just not worth it. Itís a long year, weíve just got to get guys healthy. Rondoís had the hamstring, he had the plantar fasciitis. So with the ankle, this gives him a chance to actually get healthy. Itís not good for us [now]. Itís good for him. In the long run itíll be good for us."
Allen talks to troops
After receiving an e-mail earlier in the week from Lt. Commander Paul Brawley of Boston's Navy Community, 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.
"Weíre over here complaining about playing on Christmas Day," Allen said. "Weíre home, on US soil and able to be in close proximity to our families. But these guys probably havenít seen there family Ė 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 thatís the sacrifice they have to make."
Even with all the storylines in the Celtics matchup against the Magic, a few of the troops asked him who he was rooting for in the Lakers-Heat game.
He said, "Is it possible for both of them to lose?"