Shaq with Celtics, questionable for Game 4

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Shaq with Celtics, questionable for Game 4

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK And now for the latest installment of, 'As the Shaquille O'Neal injury drama turns,' a team official told CSNNE.com that O'Neal will in fact travel with the team to New York.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said earlier that O'Neal was definitely out for Game 3 of Boston's first-round playoff series on Friday. However, O'Neal being with the team means that there is at least some thought to him possibly suiting up for Game 4 on Sunday.

"He's had some improvement, but I don't know how much," Rivers said on Wednesday. "If you see him on the trip, he's really close."

Prior to the team departing for New York Thursday afternoon, O'Neal was expected to do some work to see if his injury had improved enough to where it would be worthwhile to bring him to New York.

Rivers told CSNNE.com following Wednesday's film session that O'Neal was being fitted for some equipment that could ease some of the pain upon his return, a signal that the C's are very much anticipating him returning to the lineup soon.

"Obviously, if he goes on the trip we think he might play that Sunday, but we're not sure."

O'Neal has not played since April 1 against Detroit.

After missing the previous 27 games, O'Neal played less than six minutes against the Pistons before the right leg injury flared up once again.

Celtics physician Dr. Brian McKeon said that the three muscles in the triceps surae complex of his right leg are all sore.

"This is a tough injury," said Dr. McKeon. "The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor it needs time. I was telling Danny (Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations) 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."

Not having O'Neal is nothing new for the Celtics.

The future Hall of Famer has played in a career-low 37 games this season.

While there are some who believe the Celtics have just been overly cautious with O'Neal, Rivers is quick to say that the reason O'Neal isn't playing is because he simply isn't healthy enough to go.

"He'll come back when he's ready to come back, and not a moment sooner," Rivers told CSNNE.com.

Based on the way their first-round series with the Knicks has gone, there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming sense of urgency to bring O'Neal back.

The C's have had their problems rebounding, and having O'Neal back would certainly help in that area.

That's why Game 3 on Friday is so pivotal not only for the teams, but it may impact how soon O'Neal returns.

If the Celtics win Game 3 and take a 3-0 lead, Boston might be less inclined to bring him back in a decisive Game 4 and instead be more focused on having him ready to go in the next round with the opponent most likely being the Miami Heat.

Rivers isn't thinking that far ahead.

"I just want to get through the next game," Rivers said. "And after that, the game after that. The game at hand, that's the only game that counts."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."