Shaq is Celts' only question mark for Sunday

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Shaq is Celts' only question mark for Sunday

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM There was a Shaquille O'Neal sighting at the Boston Celtics' practice facility on Thursday.

Whether we see him in Game One of the C's first-round playoff series with the New York Knicks, remains to be seen.

"If you ask Shaq, he'll tell you he's going to give it a go on Sunday," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com. "But I honestly don't know. It's hard to put an expectation on whether he will go or not go at this point. We'll have to wait and see."

The next couple of days will go far in determining if O'Neal will return to the Celtics' lineup.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who addressed the media prior to Thursday's practice, said O'Neal would participate in the team's practice.

"We're not going to do nothing . . . we're going to walk through stuff," Rivers said. "I could do today's practice. But tomorrow and the following day are the two big days for Shaq. He's going to try and get through practices and see what he can do."

The impact of O'Neal on the Celtics is undeniable.

When you get past Boston's Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, no Celtic player had a better plusminus than O'Neal who is plus-5.2 points per game.

Although he's only averaging 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, O'Neal is shooting an impressive 66.7 percent from the field.

The only issue with O'Neal is his health.

A series of injuries have limited him to a career-low 37 games played this season.

The injuries, plus the fact that the 39-year-old is the league's oldest player, makes his return one the Celtics are cautiously optimistic about heading into their first-round series.

Ainge told CSNNE.com that he does expect O'Neal to play at some point against the Knicks, but isn't ready to commit to him being ready to go Sunday.

"We've had injuries all season, but, yeah, we're about as healthy now as we've been all season," Ainge said. "The only real question mark we have health-wise right now, is Shaq."

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

Hayward: No one thing led him to Celtics, 'just a gut feeling'

Hayward: No one thing led him to Celtics, 'just a gut feeling'

In the end, what was it that led this summer's most coveted free agent, Gordon Hayward, to finally choose the Celtics?

"I don't know if there was one thing," Hayward told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on "The Woj Podcast" released Monday. "I think if I would've stayed in Utah, we would've been really good. It would've been a great situation for me. My family would have been happy. We loved it there.

"It was a different feeling in Boston that we had. It was like a gut feeling. When we broke it down, the city, the coaching staff, the players. The feeling of putting on a Boston Celtics uniform and competing for a title outweighed everything."

MORE CELTICS

More highlights from Hayward's first extended one-on-one interview since choosing the Celtics over the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat on July 4:

When is he moving to Boston?

"Early September," Hayward said. "We've found a place and we're in the process of moving our stuff back there. We're excited. With two little girls, we'd like to find some places we can go to all the time with little things they'd like to do."

On seeing [his former Butler coach] Brad Stevens there to greet him at Logan Airport on his Celtics visit: 

"I'm taking pictures at baggage claim with Brad and the fans. I had an immediate sense of familiarity...It did take me back to recruiting days...The relationship between Brad and I has been completely overstated and overhyped. There's always been rumors but those were just rumors. We had a great relationship but it wasn't like we were always texting each other. Everybody made it seem like we were besties and it wasn't like that.

"He immediately called me July 1 [after free agency opened] and I thought, 'Oh no this isn't going to be any different [from Butler]'"

On his visit to Fenway Park when the Celtics made their pitch to him:

"I'm not a baseball person at all but that was still really cool."

On his return visit to Boston after he announced he would sign with the Celtics:

"We went back to Boston and we were going to do the press conference there [it ended up being a conference call from his home near San Diego] I actually forgot my suit. We were going to go to Saks but we didn't have time. So we jumped in the car and went to Joseph A. Bank, which I got killed about [on social media]. We were walking around the city, we didn't know, and we could just feel it then though, you could feel the intensity. We went to dinner and went to the North End and I got my haircut. We kind of just jumped in and everyone was so excited and telling me they were happy I was in Boston. We almost just had a night in the heart of Boston and that was really cool." 

On the Celtics' history: 

"For Larry [Bird], I think was a little too young [to have grown up watching him]. Celtic lore to me because is how invested the fans are and how invested the organization is in winning. For me, it was a lot of you know I want to try to continue that greatness with the team they have now." 

What did Isaiah Thomas tell him on his visit?

"We really talked about going and getting Banner 18 more than anything. That was really the focus."

Report: Celtics have called Cavaliers about potential Kyrie Irving trade

Report: Celtics have called Cavaliers about potential Kyrie Irving trade

Celtics fans aren’t the only ones thinking of ways Kyrie Irving could end up in Boston.

Even though it would be hard to imagine last season’s No. 2 seed in the East trading one of the best players in the league to last season’s No. 1 seed in the East, ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote Monday that the Celtics have indeed called the Cavs about the 25-year-old point guard. 

Wrote Lowe:

Most teams, including the asset-rich Celtics, have placed the obligatory call letting Cleveland know they would like to be kept in the loop, sources say. Boston could offer Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and one of their golden picks -- Brooklyn's pick next season, or the Lakers/Kings pick they got from Philly in the Markelle Fultz deal. It's unclear if they would dangle all of that, but those picks could represent the young stud Cleveland needs. Regardless, a deal between the East's two best teams seems unlikely.

While nobody’s counting on Irving joining the Celtics, a trade of Irving elsewhere could still swing the balance in the East in Boston’s favor depending on what Cleveland gets back. Irving reportedly requested a trade from Cleveland earlier this month.