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.

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

MORE:

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”