Boston Celtics

Haslem's return, like Shaq's, remains a mystery

Haslem's return, like Shaq's, remains a mystery

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI While Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers remains optimistic that Shaquille O'Neal will play at some point during their second-round series against Miami, the outlook isn't nearly as rosy for Miami's Udonis Haslem.

Out since November with a foot injury, the Heat were hopeful that their emotional catalyst might be available to play in this series.

While Haslem has been practicing with the team, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn't paint a rosy picture for the 6-foot-8 forward being back in the lineup soon.

"It might not happen in the next week, two weeks," Spoelstra said. "We're all trying to get on the same page about it, but what we're trying to be is objective. We're all eager, and while we all see the light at the end of the tunnel, the playoff series is not going to be our timeline."

As much as he wants to be back on the floor, Haslem knows he's not quite back to being his old self right now.

"It's very hard," Haslem said. "But understanding the situation, and understanding my situation and how much rides on this series, it's not about me. It's about the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics and it's about putting the best five guys on the court at any particular time."

Not that long ago, it was a no-brainer for Haslem to believe that he was one of those five.

As talented as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh might be, Haslem provides a brand of toughness that's not easily replicated especially by Miami teammates.

When the playoffs arrive, often it is the players who understand the need for that brand of toughness - and maybe most important, can provide it consistently - that prove to be difference-makers.

But Haslem's foot injury, which much like O'Neal's right leg injuries, has dragged on longer than most anticipated, only adds to the frustration and disappointment both are coming to grips with as their respective teams try to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

"Right now, I'm probably not one of those five guys and I understand that," Haslem said.

For now, Haslem will adopt a similar mindset that he had when he was an undrafted free agent trying to latch on with the Heat in camp.

"I have to keep impressing the coaches in practice," he said. "Keep trying to get back to what I was before I got hurt. I understand that's going ot take time, and I'll probably not get back to that level before the season is out. But if I can get close to that level, I feel that I can contribute something whether it's rebounding, defense, knocking down a couple of shots, something."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

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NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.