By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM The long-awaited return of Shaquille O'Neal?
It looks like it won't be tonight.
A team official told CSNNE.com that O'Neal did not participate in the team's closed walkthrough this morning. While it's still possible for him to suit up against the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, it seems unlikely.
For O'Neal, this will be the 22nd straight game that he'll be out with some type of right leg injury.
Based on the opponent, tonight would have been an ideal time for the 39-year-old center to return to action.
Memphis comes into tonight's game as the NBA's leader in points in the paint (50.9) per game.
To the Celtics credit, even without O'Neal they have made it difficult for teams to score around the basket, which can be seen in the fact that the C's give up an NBA-low 35.8 points in the paint.
The Celtics remain optimistic that he will be back playing, sooner rather than later.
O'Neal accompanied the team during their recent three-game road trip, but did not play in any of the games.
Prior to Boston's first game of the trip at Houston, O'Neal told reporters he was hopeful that he would be able to play at some point this week.
As far as where he's at in his recovery, O'Neal said it's difficult to get a read on because the Celtics have a lot of games and not a lot of practice time in between.
"I haven't been able to simulate game-type situations yet," he said. "You can only do so much by yourself. The true test is when I get out there with the guys and banging and pushing and off balance and all that. We'll see from there."