Shaquille O’Neal failed tests on his inflamed right Achilles this morning before the Celtics’ practice and will not be available for Game 1 of the team’s playoff opener tomorrow against the Knicks.
Celtics president Danny Ainge, who had assured that O’Neal would be healthy enough to play at the start of the postseason, made the announcement in front of then media this afternoon.
“Shaq, we tried to get him out there at practice today, simulate the game as much as we could, and he’s not ready,” Ainge said. “So we don’t know when he’ll be ready, and we’ll just keep evaluating him day-to-day, so he won’t play in tomorrow’s game.”
O’Neal missed 27 straight games during the regular season from Feb. 4 to April 1. He returned two Sunday’s ago against the Pistons, but played just six minutes before straining his calf, sitting out the rest of the season.
Dr. Brian McKeon said that after getting treatment and trying to run on the injured leg today, it hadn’t improved enough for O’Neal to play tomorrow. Ainge was leery about saying when O’Neal would return, unwilling to say that it would be at any point during the Celtics’ first round series. McKeon said the only true solution is time. The longer O’Neal sits, the healthier he’ll be.
“This guy’s been working his tail off,” McKeon said. “He’s worked so, so hard.
“He’s actually made progression every day. This is a tough injury. The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor and it just takes time. I was telling Danny and the coaches in the last 20 years, this is one area in medicine we’ve made no progress. It’s just time. It’s just hard to get enough healing potential in that area.”