By A. Sherrod Blakely
MIAMI So much for that lift the Boston Celtics were supposed to get from Shaquille O'Neal off the bench.
Coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday morning that the 7-foot-1 center re-aggravated his right Achillescalf injury in Game 4 and is doubtful to play in tonight's pivotal Game 5.
Boston trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, and will be eliminated if the Heat win.
O'Neal played less than four minutes - all in the first half - of Boston's 98-90 overtime loss to the Heat.
"That little stretch in the first half, it just got worse," Rivers said.
Rivers added, "It's nothing he can do. It's not like he isn't trying. He's done everything you can possibly do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn't been able to do it."
O'Neal first began missing games because of the injury back in December.
At first, the C's didn't think it was that big a deal, with him expected to only miss a handful of games.
After sitting out four games with a calf injury in December, O'Neal returned to play in 17 straight before re-aggravating the injury against Utah on Jan. 21.
From there, O'Neal missed three games, returned to play in three straight, and once again, the right calfAchilles bothered him to the point where he could not play.
Concerned that his injury might linger into the postseason, the Celtics opted to shut him down for the next 27 games.
His return on April 3 against Detroit was a short-lived one, as O'Neal once again re-aggravated the right leg injuries after logging about five minutes of action.
He played sparingly in Games 3 and 4 against Miami, but had little to no impact on the outcome of either game.
"It just never healed, and still hasn't," Rivers said. "Every time he plays now, it gets worse. There's nothing you can do about it."
As the oldest player in the NBA this season, it stands to reason that O'Neal may very well never play in the NBA again.
He signed a two-year deal with the Celtics last fall, with an option to come back for a second season.
The way his body has broken down this season, the choice may have already been made for him.
"It's too early to talk about it now," Rivers said. "I've learned personally you never make any decisions during the heat of battle. You're always gong to make the wrong choice. I think he'll walk away for the summer, and decide what he wants to do. I just know this has been emotionally draining to him, more than you guys would know. He feels awful about this. This is why he came here, to get to the playoffs. And not being able to do that, has really hurt him."