By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON CSNNE.com has confirmed that Shaquille O'Neal, who has been bothered by a sore hip recently, will not play.
"He's out tonight," C's coach Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com shortly after the team's pre-game walk-through at the Garden.
Moments later, Boston's Kendrick Perkins confirmed to CSNNE.com that he would be making his first start of the season.
"I'm ready," Perkins said.
Perkins, who missed the first 43 games of the season while recovering from a torn MCL and PCL injury suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last June, has been a solid contributor off the Celtics bench since returning to action.
However, Rivers has maintained all along that at some point Perkins would re-enter the starting lineup.
With O'Neal's ailing hip and Perkins' strong play during the team's recent West coast trip, making the change at this point made sense.
By re-introducing Perkins into the starting unit, the Celtics will field what's clearly the best starting five unit at their disposal.
It is unclear what will happen when O'Neal returns to the lineup, but in all likelihood he will join the second unit which is the group that the C's envisioned him playing with at the start of the season.
O'Neal, who is averaging career-lows in just about every statistical category, anticipated his numbers would fall off once he agreed to join the Celtics.
And whether it's starting or coming off the bench, O'Neal has repeatedly said it doesn't make a difference to him.
"When I was younger in my career, starting was a necessity for myself, for my position and for my brand," O'Neal said. "But I've done everything individually more than anyone playing the game now. Stat-wise, I'm right up there. I wasn't brought here to put up big numbers. I was just brought in to fit in. When I had the conversation with Doc, it doesn't matter to me. I've been on both sides of the fence before, starting, coming off the bench. It doesn't' matter to me. Whatever the team, whatever the city needs me to do, I'll do."