Shaq fails conditioning test, out indefinitely

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Shaq fails conditioning test, out indefinitely

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Shaquille O'Neal failed a conditioning test Saturday morning, and has been ruled out indefinitely by the Boston Celtics.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, made the announcement this afternoon with team physician, Dr. Brian McKeon.

"He has been making progress," Ainge said. "We tried to get him out there to practice today, simulate the game as much as we could. He's not ready. We don't know when he'll be ready."

McKeon said the trial O'Neal was involved in consisted of him running, a test McKeon acknowledged O'Neal had failed.

"It didn't work," McKeon said. "It's just too sore. We're going to spend another ... get back to tomorrow and hopefully we'll get him back soon."

O'Neal has had an assortment of right leg injuries all season.

After missing 27 games, O'Neal returned to the Celtics lineup on April 3 against the Detroit Pistons. He played well, but re-aggravated his right calf injury after less than six minutes of court time.

McKeon said the nature of his injury remains in the calf and Achilles region of his right leg.

"This is a tough injury," McKeon said. "The blood supply in this area is so weak. It just needs time."

Time is something O'Neal and the Celtics don't have a lot of right now.

New York doesn't have a ton of big bodies in the frontcourt, so to not have O'Neal for some or even all of the Knicks series, probably won't have much of an impact.

But when you look at a possible second-round matchup with the Miami Heat, size does matter.

And if the C's can somehow survive that, O'Neal and his presence will surely be needed if Boston runs into top-seeded Chicago.

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

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Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”