Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM - There were new faces on the court during Celtics practice on Saturday and one noticeable absentee. Jermaine O'Neal and Avery Bradley returned from injuries to practice with the team, while Shaquille O'Neal sat this one out.

Shaq was bothered by his hips and stayed off the court. "That'll be an issue, on and off at times," said coach Doc Rivers. "We're prepared for that."

As for Jermaine O'Neal, he completed the Celtics' two-hour practice after being sidelined by a sore left hamstring. He admitted he was tired but was happy to be on the court with his new teammates. The Celtics had been looking forward to playing alongside him.

"It was very good having JO back out there," said Kevin Garnett. "If we're going to be anything this year, we're going to need his contributions. He looked really good today. He looked explosive. A good day."

Rivers says Jermaine O'Neal will be a game-time decision for Sunday's match against the Toronto Raptors.

Rivers expects Delonte West to play on Sunday after the guard left Thursday's game against the New Jersey Nets with discomfort in his lower back. "He practiced. He went through the whole practice as well, so everybody was good," said Rivers, adding, "He'll play, unless something happens, but I think he'll play."

Avery Bradley completed his first full practice with the team after undergoing ankle surgery over the summer. The rookie had been anxious to hit the court with the Celtics after watching from a distance.

"I just wanted to gain their respect," he told CSNNE.com. "I hadn't really got out on the court, so today that's what I wanted to do. Go out there and practice hard and show them that I'm with them."

Bradley tried to push his ankle and was pleasantly surprised that he could run up and down with the team and make certain cuts that he wasn't sure he could make. "It went very well," he said.

He doesn't know when he can play in a game and is taking it "day by day."

Bradley and fellow rookie Luke Harangody were the last players to leave the court after practice.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."