Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

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Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Last season, the Boston Celtics adopted a philosophy of giving players "strategic rest" throughout the season.

Well, it appears that may very well be the case with Shaquille O'Neal and his assortment of right leg injuries.

O'Neal has missed Boston's last 13 games with either a right Achilles tendon or right foot injury.

On Monday, O'Neal said both injuries are bothering him.

But of the two, the Achilles Tendon injury is the one of greater concern.

"It gets better than comes back, it gets better than comes back," O'Neal said. "But Dr. Brian McKeon has done a great job, been working on it twice a day, so I'll be back."

He told reporters on Monday that he's "about 85 percent" healthy, but added his time off the court has been due to the Celtics coaches and medical staff wanting him to be at full strength before returning.

"I would have liked to be out there with the guys on Sunday at Milwaukee, but they wanted me back 100 percent," O'Neal said. "I tried to run the other day and it felt really good, but I had to take a step back so hopefully in a few days, or in a week or so, I'll be back."

In other words, O'Neal - much like the C's coaching staff and medical staff - don't have a definitive timetable for his return to the lineup.

While the C's are certainly a better team with O'Neal in the lineup, there are benefits to him sitting out a few more games.

Boston essentially got rid of a third of its roster within the last two weeks, so there's a lot of teaching going on right now.

Without O'Neal in the rotation, this allows some of Boston's new big men, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy specifically, a chance to play meaningful minutes to better enhance their familiarity with their new teammates.

"You know they looked pretty good," O'Neal said of the newest Celtics. "They looked comfortable. Doc's done a great job of getting them in and getting them out. It's kind of a new team. From here on in, it's important that everyone gets in and we get our rhythm going into the postseason."

Of all the newcomers, Krstic, who starts at center in place of O'Neal, has made the greatest impact.

In five games as the C's starting center - all Celtics wins - Krstic is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Still, he understands that his play - much like the rest of the Celtics newcomers - is a work in progess.

"Still adjusting," he told CSNNE.com. "Everything is new for me. It's . . . everybody is helpful. Everybody is trying to help. Still, it's hard to make that transition; just trying to do my best on the court, give 100 percent when I play."

It remains to be seen what Krstic's role will be when O'Neal returns.

Because by all indications, O'Neal will come back as the starting center.

His impact with the Celtics goes beyond his meager numbers - 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Because O'Neal draws so much attention when he's on the floor, that has allowed Boston shooters such as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen better looks at the basket.

With better looks, both Pierce and Allen are enjoying career seasons shooting the ball from the field and 3-point range, respectively.

Despite the injuries, O'Neal said his focus now isn't any different than it was from Day One.

"We're all here for 18-25," said O'Neal, referring to Banner 18 for the C's, championship number '2' for the Big Three and title number '5' for himself.

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

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.