MIAMI — Shaquille O’Neal scrimmaged with the Celtics yesterday for the first time since leaving a game against Detroit with a calf injury late in the regular season, but the Celtics center is “sore” and is doubtful for Game 2 tonight against the Heat.
“He looked great yesterday,” Rivers said. “He went through the whole practice, he was phenomenal actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal, then by the end of practice he was struggling walking. So we’ll see, but I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, we’re not sure, but I doubt it.
Earlier this week, Rivers had targeted tonight’s game or Saturday’s Game 3 as possible dates for Shaq’s return. He said this morning that Saturday was the more likely return date, though he did not commit to O’Neal’s return to the court for Game 3 as a sure thing.
The 39-year-old O’Neal has played just 5 1/2 minutes of NBA basketball since Feb. 1, leaving that Pistons game on April 3 with what the team called a right calf strain. At the time, O’Neal was only supposed to miss about a week. So while it’s potentially encouraging news that O’Neal looked good to Rivers in practice, it’s unclear whether or not Shaq is fit to play playoff basketball.
O’Neal has had a noticeable limp whenever reporters spot him before or after team workout sessions here in South Florida. The practices are closed to the media, so only the team knows how well O’Neal is or isn’t performing physically.
“The after-effects of doing it,” Rivers said. “Watching him walk on the bus and even this morning said the recovery time is important for him.
“Hell, if they tell me today he can play and Eddie [Lacerte] and them said he could play, I have no problem playing him. At the end of the day, unlike all of us, he’s big. When we play him, he’s still going to be big. He’s going to be bigger than anybody on the floor and if that’s for two minutes or four minutes, he’s still big and height matters.”