By A.Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers refuted a report that it would take a "miraculous recovery" for Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal to return for the playoffs.
"I know that's not true," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "He's going to play. I just don't know when."
O'Neal has played a career-low 37 games this season for the C's, primarily because of multiple injuries to his right leg.
Dr. Brian McKeon, the C's team doctor, said the 39-year-old has a triceps surae injury which has created pain around his right calf and Achilles tendon that has been too painful for him to play through.
The team put O'Neal through a running drill on Saturday, but McKeon said O'Neal failed it.
The report alleging that paints the return of O'Neal as being unlikely was in the North Andover Eagle Tribune.
The newspaper cited an unnamed source who said that, "if he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery. And at his age (39 years old) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly."
According to the report, the decision to plan on life without O'Neal was made shortly after he failed the running drill on Saturday.
That same day, McKeon as well as Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, addressed the media to give an update on O'Neal's status.
"He's actually made progression every day," McKeon said. "This is a tough injury. The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor . . . it needs time. I was telling Danny and the coaches, in the last 20 years of medicine, this is one area we have made no progress. It's just time. It's hard to get enough healing potential in that area."
Ainge added, "It's not like there is this magic test. The test is, does it hurt? You run up and down the court and does it hurt. That's the test. And can you play."
Even before O'Neal arrived, the Celtics made a strong push to bolster the center position.
That mindset didn't change after they traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City.
In addition to Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal, the C's also have Nenad Krstic (he came over as part of the Perkins trade with the Thunder) and Troy Murphy, who signed with the Celtics after being waived by the New Jersey Nets. The Celtics also use Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett at times at the center position.
Surgery won't fix his injury, and cortisone shots have little effect on that part of the body, McKeon said.
"The longer we wait, the better chance he has of being healthy."