Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal both sat out today’s practice. West left with back spasms, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t seem too worried about him missing much time.
“Delonte will be back soon,” Rivers said. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe a couple more days.”
O’Neal, however, hasn’t practiced since last Friday, and Rivers said he will likely miss the entire week. The team was scrimmaging with about five minutes left in the session, and after fighting Shaquille O’Neal for a rebound, Jermaine felt his hamstring burn as he turned to go up court.
He had never dealt with hamstring issues before, so he left the floor as soon as he felt the sensation.
“I’m not really concerned about it,” O’Neal said. “I’m more concerned about being in with the guys and getting that chemistry up. The first four days [of training camp] were really good. I was just starting to get comfortable with the system, the philosophies, what Doc wanted and also playing with those guys. It’s very difficult to learn areas of an offense or a defense when you’re not in there. So that’s probably the most frustrating part about it, but I don’t have any doubt in my mind that I’ll be back in there soon.”
O’Neal played 70 games last season after injuries plagued him in the years prior. He was kicked in the ankle at the end of last season and it led to a poor performance in the Miami Heat’s opening-round playoff series against the Celtics. Along with Shaquille, he is part of the insurance policy the Celtics took out to fill the void left by Kendrick Perkins, who had ACL surgery in July.
“We cannot take a chance with that,” Rivers said of O’Neal’s hamstring.
The Celtics open their preseason schedule Wednesday in New Hampshire against the 76ers. O’Neal said he would like to play “four or five” preseason games, but won’t rush because of the importance of the season.
“One thing about me, I think, over the years I’ve walked onto the court earlier than I was supposed to an it kind of lingered into something else,” O’Neal said. “It’s not really that serious.”
One of the O’Neals will start in Perkins’ place on opening night against the Heat. Both have said that they don’t mind coming off the bench, but they’ve been competing every day in practice.
“Holding up Shaq every damn day,” O’Neal said. “It’s crazy, you do it four times a year [when you played against him], but doing it every day in practice is difficult. I boxed him out, got the rebound and I went to turn up the court and that’s when I felt a little burning sensation. But if it was serious I wouldn’t be able to walk around, I wouldn’t be able to squat, I wouldn’t be able to do the stuff that I’m doing. I’m just making sure I’m ready come Oct. 26.”