By Rich Levine
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33