J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs


J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs

By A.Sherrod Blakely

SAN ANTONIO Unless there's an unexpected turn for the worse -- and when you're talking about the Boston Celtics, nothing related to injuries can be ruled out entirely -- Jermaine O'Neal will be back in the Celtics lineup Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

O'Neal, out since having left knee surgery in early February, returned to practice on Wednesday.

Coach Doc Rivers, who has had his share of injuries suffered in practice, didn't know what to expect.

"He had a good practice," Rivers said. "He missed shots and all that stuff, but overall, I thought he was terrific."

Rivers added that he thought O'Neal's quickness and activity after such a lengthy layoff were better than he anticipated.

"I was happy," Rivers said. "I was very happy with him."

Afterward, O'Neal was feeling pretty good, as well.

"It felt good; first day," O'Neal said. "It felt good, just to get some of the terminology back. For the most part, physically I feel strong."

Of course, O'Neal has to make it through the next 24 hours without no significant pain or soreness in order for the Celtics to feel comfortable with him playing against the Spurs.

That shouldn't be a problem, not with O'Neal spending the past few weeks working out in Chicago and not having any kind of significant soreness or swelling afterward.

There's no telling how many minutes O'Neal will play against San Antonio.

But the truth is, it really doesn't matter.

As much as they would like to have O'Neal playing solid at both ends of the floor, they need him as another big body even more.

He's not expecting to put up big numbers in his return.

More than anything, he's concerned with helping the C's get a victory.

"That's what this is all about," he told CSNNE.com. "Trying to help this team win games now, and in the playoffs. Nothing else -- my numbers or what have you -- means anything. It's all about finding ways to win games."

Also present at practice Wednesday was Von Wafer, who is recovering from a strained right calf.

Shaquille O'Neal and Troy Murphy were the only two players not in attendance.

Shaquille O'Neal's return date is tentatively scheduled for April 5 at home against Philadelphia, but, as it has in the past, could be pushed back.

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

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.

Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice


Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice

BOSTON - The Celtics got a bit of good news on the injury front with Kelly Olynyk being cleared for full contact.
The 7-foot center participated in most of the Celtics’ drills on Saturday, some of which included contact.
Olynyk said he had been doing some contact work prior to practice Saturday, but in a more controlled setting.
“I’m just trying to ramp it up a little bit more, every day,” Olynyk said. “Just trying to take a step in the right direction every day.”
Olynyk had surgery on his right shoulder in May with him expected to be out for at least five months.
Danny Ainge, C's president of basketball operations, recently said that he anticipated Olynyk returning sometime in the middle of November.
That would put his return about six months out from the time of surgery.

“He did a lot more than he has done,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ll see how he feels and progress at the appropriate rate after that.”
One of the strengths that Olynyk brought to the floor when he played was the ability to help space the floor because of his 3-point shooting.
Olynyk was not just a good 3-point shooter for a center, but one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA last season when he connected on 40.5 percent of his 3s last season.  And it’s clear that last season was not a fluke, evident by him shooting 37.3 percent on 3s for his career.
However, the addition of Al Horford not only solidified the Celtics’ interior defense but also provides them with another stretch center.
Horford, who spent the past nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, shot 34 percent on 3s last season which at the very least, makes him a player that defenses have to respect when he’s outside of the 3-point line.