Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM - There were new faces on the court during Celtics practice on Saturday and one noticeable absentee. Jermaine O'Neal and Avery Bradley returned from injuries to practice with the team, while Shaquille O'Neal sat this one out.

Shaq was bothered by his hips and stayed off the court. "That'll be an issue, on and off at times," said coach Doc Rivers. "We're prepared for that."

As for Jermaine O'Neal, he completed the Celtics' two-hour practice after being sidelined by a sore left hamstring. He admitted he was tired but was happy to be on the court with his new teammates. The Celtics had been looking forward to playing alongside him.

"It was very good having JO back out there," said Kevin Garnett. "If we're going to be anything this year, we're going to need his contributions. He looked really good today. He looked explosive. A good day."

Rivers says Jermaine O'Neal will be a game-time decision for Sunday's match against the Toronto Raptors.

Rivers expects Delonte West to play on Sunday after the guard left Thursday's game against the New Jersey Nets with discomfort in his lower back. "He practiced. He went through the whole practice as well, so everybody was good," said Rivers, adding, "He'll play, unless something happens, but I think he'll play."

Avery Bradley completed his first full practice with the team after undergoing ankle surgery over the summer. The rookie had been anxious to hit the court with the Celtics after watching from a distance.

"I just wanted to gain their respect," he told CSNNE.com. "I hadn't really got out on the court, so today that's what I wanted to do. Go out there and practice hard and show them that I'm with them."

Bradley tried to push his ankle and was pleasantly surprised that he could run up and down with the team and make certain cuts that he wasn't sure he could make. "It went very well," he said.

He doesn't know when he can play in a game and is taking it "day by day."

Bradley and fellow rookie Luke Harangody were the last players to leave the court after practice.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.