O'Neals return Sunday, but Shaq leaves early

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O'Neals return Sunday, but Shaq leaves early

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There was an O'Neal in the starting lineup for the Boston Celtics - but not exactly the one most have grown accustomed to seeing.

Jermaine O'Neal, making his first start since returning to the lineup following left knee surgery, had a solid night in Boston 's 101-90 win over Detroit.

But it was the Celtics' other O'Neal, Shaquille, who generated the most interest during the game and afterward.

S. O'Neal returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing 27 games with an assortment of right leg injuries. His return didn't last long, as S. O'Neal suffered a right calf strain early in the second quarter.

S. O'Neal's track record for injuries this season has been a lengthy one.

J. O'Neal isn't much better, although he said he felt good after Sunday's game.

"It's just going to be about progression," J. O'Neal said. "Today was probably the first day I felt sore coming to a game."

While J. O'Neal's stats (five points, six rebounds in 18 minutes) don't exactly jump out at you, it was indeed another sign of improvement that he's getting closer to being the solid contributor he was just before undergoing surgery on his left knee in February.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was pleased with what he saw from J. O'Neal whose minutes will continue to be limited.

But those limited minutes become tougher to keep in check when there are unexpected injuries.

That's exactly what happened in Sunday's win over Detroit.

"The problem was when Shaq went down, then we brought Jermaine in and he was at his minutes that I wanted to play him, literally coming out at halftime," Rivers said. "That's why I only played him four minutes (in the second half). It's killing your rotation. Any rotation right now that we even think about having, we're just throwing them out of the window because of stuff that's happened
One of the challenges J. O'Neal is dealing with is adjusting to the changes that Boston has made since he returned from left knee surgery.

Not only have some plays been modified, but the Celtics have several new faces that he now must get used to playing with with some regularity.

Even with all the changes and to some degree, uncertainty that comes with those changes, J. O'Neal has a solid spot in the Celtics' rotation moving forward if he can stay healthy.

So far, so good.

While there are many who are concerned about J. O'Neal having some type of setback following left knee surgery in Feb. 5, it's not something J. O'Neal said he is worried about or gives any thought to.

"I've never been concerned about the knee being sore and having set-backs," J. O'Neal said. "It's more about the body being sore with the banging and stuff like that."

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

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

BOSTON – The last 2 1/2 games for the Celtics have come without Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and it has certainly been a factor in Boston trailing Cleveland 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into tonight’s must-win for the Celtics to keep their season alive.
 
There have been rumors that if the series with Cleveland were closer, maybe that would lead to a return to the floor for Thomas.
 
“No. No way. He’s done [this season],” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show this morning.
 
Ainge said there’s still swelling in the hip, and it probably won’t go down enough for doctors to make a determination whether surgery is needed for another couple weeks.

Thomas was in New York City earlier this week visiting a hip specialist. He's expected to consult with at least two more before making a decision as to what's the best course of treatment.
 
“Everybody agrees if there’s anything that needs to be done to it surgically, it helps...if the inflammation goes down,” Ainge said. “The recovery [time] would be quicker.”
 
The injury initially occurred on March 15 against Minnesota.
 
Ainge said he didn’t become too concerned about it until after Thomas re-aggravated it in Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington and was questionable to play in Game 7.
 
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series that he was nowhere near himself in Game 1 or 2,” Ainge said. “And Game 2 in the second quarter it was clear he was in a lot of pain. No way we could go out and allow him to play the second half.”
 
Boston was blown out 130-86 in Game 2. In the first half, Thomas had two points and six assists, while missing all six of his shots from the field.
 
Ainge said there was “a lot” of irritation and inflammation around the affected joint in Thomas' right hip.
 
“It had gotten worse from the MRIs he had before,” said Ainge, who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”
 

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

BOSTON -- Like most NBA executives, Danny Ainge loves to get as much intel on players before picking them as he can.  
 
And with the No. 1 overall pick, Ainge knows he has to do all he can to absolutely get this one right.
 
That’s why any thoughts he had of drafting Lonzo Ball are likely out the window after the talented UCLA guard refused to work out for the Celtics.
 
“We tried to get him in for a workout and he politely said no,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.
 
Lonzo Ball’s desire (or his dad Lavar Ball’s desire; hard to say who in the Ball camp wants him in L.A. the most) to play for the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the worst-kept secrets leading up to next month’s NBA draft.
 
And with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, turning down the Celtics only increases the likelihood of  Boston passing on him and instead drafting University of Washington star Markelle Fultz.
 
“It’s not ideal,” Ainge said of Ball's decision to decline working out for Boston. “Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them. Sometimes players don’t want to come in, not because they don’t like you, they see our roster. They think they would prefer to go to another team.”
 
The Celtics, like most teams, have been mum publicly as to who they would take in the draft. But all indications at this point in the process are pointing towards them selecting Fultz with the top overall selection.
 
And the fact that Ball, the projected number two pick even before the draft lottery order was established, refuses to work out for Boston will only increase the likelihood that Fultz will be a Celtic and Ball and his camp will get their wish which has always been to don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.