Boston Celtics

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

Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

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Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

CANTON, Mass. –  Hurricane Maria ravaged a number of Caribbean Islands, including the Dominican Republic – the home of Boston Celtics big man Al Horford.

“My immediate family is OK,” Horford told CSNNE.com during Boston’s Media Day on Monday. “But we look at everything in the big picture. We were very lucky in comparison to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, a lot of smaller islands.”

Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic with heavy wind and rain but delivered a much more powerful punch to other islands.

Puerto Rico has been devastated by the storm which has knocked out most of the electricity on the island along with heavy flooding.

The U.S. Virgin Islands was hit hard as well.

While the Dominican Republic wasn’t hit quite as hard as some other islands, they too are going through what’s likely to be an extended recovery period.

“We do have a lot of flooding,” Horford said of the Dominican Republic. “There’s a lot of need.”

Horford intends to address that need in some capacity.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out the best way to help down there,” he said. “We want to make sure whatever we do as far as money and help-wise, it’s going to the people in need.”

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Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

CANTON, Mass. – There is no way around it.

When conversations shift towards the best teams in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are one of the first teams talked about.

With that elevated status comes increased expectations, the kind that will kick into full gear when the team begins practice.

But within those expectations is the reality that despite the increased talent pool Brad Stevens will have to work with this season, there will still be an adjustment period.

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Increased expectations and maintaining a sense of urgency while being patient with the team gelling, will be among the biggest challenges awaiting Boston this season.

But head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe it will be an issue his team will contend with this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed so there’s no balance,” Stevens said. “You do what you do, work every day to try to be the best you can be. We know what goal is in Boston; that’s stated pretty clearly with the banners that hang above us. Ultimately that has nothing to do with how good we become tomorrow and the next day. We just focus on the process.”

And that process begins in earnest on Tuesday with the first day of training camp.

“We’re looking forward to getting to work as a full team,” Stevens said.

Despite having a team with 10 new players, the expectations have not been any higher than they are now for Stevens who is entering his fifth season as Boston’s head coach.

He has a roster that includes a trio of All-Stars in Al Horford (4), Gordon Hayward (1) and Kyrie Irving (4), with a combined nine All-Star appearances among them.

Boston also has a talented but youthful roster outside of their Big Three that includes second-year wing Jaylen Brown and first-round pick Jayson Tatum not to mention returners Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier who will both be competing for prominent roles in the Celtics’ rotation this season.

The additions made by Boston should help balance out an offense that will continue to look for ways to score.

“We have a lot of new pieces,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But I feel like we’re moving in the right direction as a team.”

Part of that progress involves not only getting the new guys up to speed, but also internal growth from among the handful of players back from last season’s squad.

The most talked about returnee on Monday was Marcus Smart, who comes into training camp having lost nearly 20 pounds.

Smart said he weighed 223 points after having weighed himself earlier on Monday, which is down from his playing weight of last season which hovered around the 240-pound mark.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said the organization talked to Smart about the need for him to lose weight this summer.

Smart agreed.

The added weight began to bother him during the playoffs, leading to increased back pain and sleepless nights.

“I remember times putting on my shirt and tucking my stomach in because I didn’t like how it looked,” Smart said. “And that pain was causing me, I was always tired, I wasn’t as explosive and I was exerting so much energy to go out there every day and do the things I been doing my whole life. I wasn’t too fond of that. I knew I had to change.”

And when it comes to the Celtics heading into this season, change is indeed an appropriate description for this team.

But for newcomer Kyrie Irving, dealing with change is nothing new.

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland three years ago, it was expected to usher in a wave of victories from the outset.

Instead, the Cavs opened the season with a 5-6 start before getting on track and advancing to the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

“It definitely, definitely attributes to figuring out how patient you are at that moment,” Irving said when I asked him about that slow start in Cleveland. That takes a while. You have to be very patient in your approach. I speak on that pretty often. So it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in one day or after one game. It’s going to come in waves, man. These ups and downs we’re about to face as a team, as a collective group it’s going to be fairly interesting.  It’ll really echo in terms of our identity, how we respond. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”

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