By A.Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Last season, the Boston Celtics adopted a philosophy of giving players "strategic rest" throughout the season.
Well, it appears that may very well be the case with Shaquille O'Neal and his assortment of right leg injuries.
O'Neal has missed Boston's last 13 games with either a right Achilles tendon or right foot injury.
On Monday, O'Neal said both injuries are bothering him.
But of the two, the Achilles Tendon injury is the one of greater concern.
"It gets better than comes back, it gets better than comes back," O'Neal said. "But Dr. Brian McKeon has done a great job, been working on it twice a day, so I'll be back."
He told reporters on Monday that he's "about 85 percent" healthy, but added his time off the court has been due to the Celtics coaches and medical staff wanting him to be at full strength before returning.
"I would have liked to be out there with the guys on Sunday at Milwaukee, but they wanted me back 100 percent," O'Neal said. "I tried to run the other day and it felt really good, but I had to take a step back so hopefully in a few days, or in a week or so, I'll be back."
In other words, O'Neal - much like the C's coaching staff and medical staff - don't have a definitive timetable for his return to the lineup.
While the C's are certainly a better team with O'Neal in the lineup, there are benefits to him sitting out a few more games.
Boston essentially got rid of a third of its roster within the last two weeks, so there's a lot of teaching going on right now.
Without O'Neal in the rotation, this allows some of Boston's new big men, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy specifically, a chance to play meaningful minutes to better enhance their familiarity with their new teammates.
"You know they looked pretty good," O'Neal said of the newest Celtics. "They looked comfortable. Doc's done a great job of getting them in and getting them out. It's kind of a new team. From here on in, it's important that everyone gets in and we get our rhythm going into the postseason."
Of all the newcomers, Krstic, who starts at center in place of O'Neal, has made the greatest impact.
In five games as the C's starting center - all Celtics wins - Krstic is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Still, he understands that his play - much like the rest of the Celtics newcomers - is a work in progess.
"Still adjusting," he told CSNNE.com. "Everything is new for me. It's . . . everybody is helpful. Everybody is trying to help. Still, it's hard to make that transition; just trying to do my best on the court, give 100 percent when I play."
It remains to be seen what Krstic's role will be when O'Neal returns.
Because by all indications, O'Neal will come back as the starting center.
His impact with the Celtics goes beyond his meager numbers - 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Because O'Neal draws so much attention when he's on the floor, that has allowed Boston shooters such as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen better looks at the basket.
With better looks, both Pierce and Allen are enjoying career seasons shooting the ball from the field and 3-point range, respectively.
Despite the injuries, O'Neal said his focus now isn't any different than it was from Day One.
"We're all here for 18-25," said O'Neal, referring to Banner 18 for the C's, championship number '2' for the Big Three and title number '5' for himself.