Notes: Jermaine O'Neal to start Tuesday night

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Notes: Jermaine O'Neal to start Tuesday night

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM With Shaquille O'Neal likely to miss Tuesday's game in Detroit, Doc Rivers said that O'Neal's "brother" Jermaine should be ready to step into the starting lineup after missing Boston's last game with a knee injury of his own.

"He had a good practice and he'll play," Rivers said. "Obviously, it could swell or something. But right now, he looked good."

The knee was actually one in a laundry list of ailments that Jermaine O'Neal has dealt with so far this season, but the big man is ready to shake off the rust and make his presence felt in the Celtics rotation.

"It's been challenging," O'Neal said after Monday's practice, "with the hamstring and then the back and the wrist and the knee. It's been extremely disappointing. But it's the trials and tribulations that make you stronger; you can never be successful and if you don't fail.

"So far I haven't been able to do things. I know that people who brought me here aren't happy with what they've seen, but I guarantee that by the end of the year they'll be happy with what they see. I'm doing everything I can to catch up to speed."

Among those things, O'Neal cites limited rest during practice, as well as extra one-on-one drills after the session ends.

Kevin Garnett, for one, is looking forward to getting O'Neal into the flow.

"I'm always looking to build chemistry with anyone who I haven't played with," Garnett said. "JO's been beat up a little bit, so obviously it'll be good to be out there with him."

The season is still very young, but there aren't enough great things to say about the play of Glen Davis. The fourth-year pro has become Boston's most reliable weapon on the bench, and a guy Doc Rivers now consistently turns to in crunch time along with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett.

Speaking after Monday's practice, Garnett was quick to make note of Davis' vast improvement.

"He's been a lot more patient than last year," Garnett said. "I think he understands his role even more. I think he's probably accepted his role more than last year. He's a lot more vocal. He's always charismatic and social; keeping us laughing and keeping it light. He's gonna play be a big part in whether we're successful or not.

Boston's lack of pop on the block was a main cause of their crushing Game Seven loss to the Lakers last June, and it was a problem that Danny Ainge addressed this offseason with the signing of both O'Neals.

As a result not to mention the improved health of Garnett the C's have been a much better rebounding team this season. But while the bigs will carry a bulk of the work load on the boards, Doc Rivers believes it's important for all five guys on the floor to get involved.

"Again, as important as our bigs are, it's really important for our guards to rebound," Rivers said. "Paul had 14 in one game and 9 in another and we won those games. He had two in another and we lost it. And I do think it's connected in some way."

Asked to elaborate, Pierce said he understood how important it is for him to crash, but also said that the responsibility doesn't fall only on him.

"It's not all on me from the wing," Pierce said. "It's gotta come from everyone. It's gotta come from the bigs. It's gotta come from Rondo. He's set such a high standard for himself on the glass, especially with the bigs going down.
Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."