By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Prior to Boston's 101-90 win over Detroit on Sunday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers opted to play Shaquille O'Neal with the goal being to limit his minutes.
But this is not what he had in mind.
O'Neal returned to action and looked good in his six minutes on the floor, only to suffer yet another injury (right calf strain) that will sideline him indefinitely.
So even as Paul Pierce (22 points) and Kevin Garnett (23 points, 8 rebounds) looked good in Sunday's win, all the talk afterward was about the big fella who won't be playing big minutes - or any minutes, most likely - any time soon.
O'Neal was running up the court early in the second quarter. He began limping. O'Neal eventually hobbled over towards the Celtics bench and needed some help getting back to the locker room.
Team trainer Ed Lacerte helped him off the floor. They were soon joined by other members of the Celtics medical staff in the tunnel area near the Celtics bench.
There was great concern at first that O'Neal, who was out with a right Achilles tendon injury, had re-aggravated his sore Achilles tendon or even worst, ruptured it.
But all indications by the C's are that the right calf injury suffered by O'Neal isn't that serious.
"It's not a bad strain, but it's a strain," Rivers said. "Similar to the one Von Wafe had, but not even close to the severity."
Wafer missed 13 games because of the injury.
When asked how long would O'Neal be out, Rivers responded, "I don't know, is the answer. I don't think very long, honestly. That's what the team's medical staff thought, that it's very minor. It scared him more than anything. I'm sure with the calf, he thought Achilles right away. but we'll see."
Jermaine O'Neal, who has had his share of injuries this season, believes Shaq will be back quickly.
"I think he may be out here on Tuesday against the Sixers, but we'll see," said O'Neal. "He was laughing and joking; I think it was more of a scare for the guys on the team and the fans of the Celtics."
Even before the injury, Rivers indicated Shaquille O'Neal would miss some games between now and the start of the playoffs.
Now, the C's have no choice.
But his injury complicates Rivers' plan.
The coach wants to make sure O'Neal doesn't overdue it between now and the playoffs, but he understands the C's really need Shaq on the floor if for no other reason than to develop better chemistry for both the starters and second unit.
The Celtics did get a bit of good news on Sunday, with Nenad Krstic potentially back in the lineup as early as Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. He suffered a bone bruise in his right knee against San Antonio on Thursday.
Boston is now starting Jermaine O'Neal at center.
And like most of Boston's centers, he's had his share of injuries this season as well.
In fact, Sunday was just his 20th game of the season after missing most of the year following surgery to his left knee.
Against the Pistons, Jermaine O'Neal played 17 minutes while scoring five points to go with six rebounds.