Notes: Jermaine O'Neal to start Tuesday night

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Notes: Jermaine O'Neal to start Tuesday night

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM With Shaquille O'Neal likely to miss Tuesday's game in Detroit, Doc Rivers said that O'Neal's "brother" Jermaine should be ready to step into the starting lineup after missing Boston's last game with a knee injury of his own.

"He had a good practice and he'll play," Rivers said. "Obviously, it could swell or something. But right now, he looked good."

The knee was actually one in a laundry list of ailments that Jermaine O'Neal has dealt with so far this season, but the big man is ready to shake off the rust and make his presence felt in the Celtics rotation.

"It's been challenging," O'Neal said after Monday's practice, "with the hamstring and then the back and the wrist and the knee. It's been extremely disappointing. But it's the trials and tribulations that make you stronger; you can never be successful and if you don't fail.

"So far I haven't been able to do things. I know that people who brought me here aren't happy with what they've seen, but I guarantee that by the end of the year they'll be happy with what they see. I'm doing everything I can to catch up to speed."

Among those things, O'Neal cites limited rest during practice, as well as extra one-on-one drills after the session ends.

Kevin Garnett, for one, is looking forward to getting O'Neal into the flow.

"I'm always looking to build chemistry with anyone who I haven't played with," Garnett said. "JO's been beat up a little bit, so obviously it'll be good to be out there with him."

The season is still very young, but there aren't enough great things to say about the play of Glen Davis. The fourth-year pro has become Boston's most reliable weapon on the bench, and a guy Doc Rivers now consistently turns to in crunch time along with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett.

Speaking after Monday's practice, Garnett was quick to make note of Davis' vast improvement.

"He's been a lot more patient than last year," Garnett said. "I think he understands his role even more. I think he's probably accepted his role more than last year. He's a lot more vocal. He's always charismatic and social; keeping us laughing and keeping it light. He's gonna play be a big part in whether we're successful or not.

Boston's lack of pop on the block was a main cause of their crushing Game Seven loss to the Lakers last June, and it was a problem that Danny Ainge addressed this offseason with the signing of both O'Neals.

As a result not to mention the improved health of Garnett the C's have been a much better rebounding team this season. But while the bigs will carry a bulk of the work load on the boards, Doc Rivers believes it's important for all five guys on the floor to get involved.

"Again, as important as our bigs are, it's really important for our guards to rebound," Rivers said. "Paul had 14 in one game and 9 in another and we won those games. He had two in another and we lost it. And I do think it's connected in some way."

Asked to elaborate, Pierce said he understood how important it is for him to crash, but also said that the responsibility doesn't fall only on him.

"It's not all on me from the wing," Pierce said. "It's gotta come from everyone. It's gotta come from the bigs. It's gotta come from Rondo. He's set such a high standard for himself on the glass, especially with the bigs going down.
Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.