Haslem's return, like Shaq's, remains a mystery

Haslem's return, like Shaq's, remains a mystery

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI While Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers remains optimistic that Shaquille O'Neal will play at some point during their second-round series against Miami, the outlook isn't nearly as rosy for Miami's Udonis Haslem.

Out since November with a foot injury, the Heat were hopeful that their emotional catalyst might be available to play in this series.

While Haslem has been practicing with the team, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn't paint a rosy picture for the 6-foot-8 forward being back in the lineup soon.

"It might not happen in the next week, two weeks," Spoelstra said. "We're all trying to get on the same page about it, but what we're trying to be is objective. We're all eager, and while we all see the light at the end of the tunnel, the playoff series is not going to be our timeline."

As much as he wants to be back on the floor, Haslem knows he's not quite back to being his old self right now.

"It's very hard," Haslem said. "But understanding the situation, and understanding my situation and how much rides on this series, it's not about me. It's about the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics and it's about putting the best five guys on the court at any particular time."

Not that long ago, it was a no-brainer for Haslem to believe that he was one of those five.

As talented as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh might be, Haslem provides a brand of toughness that's not easily replicated especially by Miami teammates.

When the playoffs arrive, often it is the players who understand the need for that brand of toughness - and maybe most important, can provide it consistently - that prove to be difference-makers.

But Haslem's foot injury, which much like O'Neal's right leg injuries, has dragged on longer than most anticipated, only adds to the frustration and disappointment both are coming to grips with as their respective teams try to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

"Right now, I'm probably not one of those five guys and I understand that," Haslem said.

For now, Haslem will adopt a similar mindset that he had when he was an undrafted free agent trying to latch on with the Heat in camp.

"I have to keep impressing the coaches in practice," he said. "Keep trying to get back to what I was before I got hurt. I understand that's going ot take time, and I'll probably not get back to that level before the season is out. But if I can get close to that level, I feel that I can contribute something whether it's rebounding, defense, knocking down a couple of shots, something."

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

Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

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Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

After the Clippers were elminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, a disappointed Paul Pierce told ESPN that he was "50-50" about retirement. 

In a video after Portland's Game 6 victory posted on oregonlive.com, the former Celtics captain said his "heart is broken" by another playoff elimination. 

Pierce signed a a three-year, $10 million contract to return home (he grew up in Inglewood, Calif.) and play for his old coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles.  He'll be 39 next season and coming off the worst season of his career. Pierce averaged 6.1 points, 36 percent shooting and 18 minutes a game, all career lows.

How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

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How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

WALTHAM, Mass. -- This past season, Isaiah Thomas took a major step forward to becoming more than just a solid NBA player, but one of the game’s best.
 
He knows he won’t stay among the elite for long if he doesn’t make some changes with the most notable being to his diet.
 
“I do not eat good,” Thomas acknowledged following his exit interview this week. “I eat like a young guy, a young guy who got a little bit of money, fast food every day. But I’m definitely going to change.”
 
The change becomes necessary not only in light of how the season ended for him and the Celtics, but also for his long-term goals, which include playing in the NBA until he’s at least 40 years old.
 
“I’m not that old but the greatest players took care of their bodies the best,” Thomas said.
 
Among those cited by Thomas who excelled at taking care of their bodies was former Celtic Ray Allen.
 
But Thomas was quick to add that he won’t go to the lengths that Allen did in maintaining good health.
 
“Because he’s a little crazy with that,” quipped Thomas. “I just want to play at a high level for a long time, like Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant. You have to take care of your body. That’s half the battle of performing out there on the floor.
 
Thomas added, “This is a big summer for me to start doing that.”
 
Eating right is just part of the transformation process for Thomas.
 
He’ll also modify is offseason workouts to include some work in the boxing ring with long time friend Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
 
“I’m definitely work with him a few times, get my conditioning right, probably train, do some boxing stuff on the side, just to get in that type of shape,” Thomas said. “You get in that type of shape you won’t get tired on the basketball floor. This summer is big for me, transforming my body, getting into the best shape possible and coming back and having another all-star year.”
 
For the Celtics to improve upon this past season, they will need Thomas to continue elevating his play as well as the play of those around him.
 
It is that latter point that was among the many reasons Boston’s season is over. No matter what he did, those around him could not step their game up to a level needed in order to get past the Atlanta Hawks.
 
Chalk it up to another lesson learned for Thomas.
 
“You can’t do it on your own,” Thomas said. “There’s no way you can do it on your own. Nobody can do it on your own; and how hard it is to win playoff games, a playoff series. It’s not easy.”
 
And when you come up short, for Thomas is created an uneasiness that he never wants to experience again.
 
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to not have this feeling again,” he said. “It really hurt me. I’m going to use that as motivation to continue to get better and to work on my flaws and make those into my strengths. I promise you’ll I’ll be back better than ever next year.”