Shaq not worried about Dwight


Shaq not worried about Dwight

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON The schedule says that the Orlando Magic are up next on the Boston Celtics' docket.

That means Dwight Howard, the most dominant big man in the game, will be on the floor for Monday night's tilt between these two Eastern Conference powers.

Insert yawn from Shaquille O'Neal right about here.

He was asked following Friday's 99-94 win over Charlotte about what it would be like facing Dwight Howard.

"Nothing," said O'Neal, who had 23 points and a season-high five blocks against the Bobcats.

You would think that the Magic were starting Dwight Yoakam at center and not Dwight Howard, based on O'Neal's laissez-faire attitude towards the matchup between the league's top centers of the not-that-long-ago past (O'Neal) and present (Howard).

"The only thing that motivates me is 1825," said O'Neal, who was referring to the Celtics' quest for an 18th NBA title, the core group of Celtics from 2008 trying to win their second NBA title and himself searching for NBA title No. 5. "I'm done with individual matchups. Too old for that."

He's right.

At 38 years old, looking for him to dominate Howard isn't going to happen.

Will he hold his own?

For sure.

But what's overlooked during this stage in which O'Neal's game is on the decline, is how his presence can impact those around him.

To focus on what he does statistically doesn't do justice to what having Shaq has meant to this veteran team.

When you look at Paul Pierce and Ray Allen enjoying career seasons shooting the ball, something you rarely see from true scorers nearing the end of their career, Shaq in the starting lineup has been a big part of that success.

"Teams have to account for him, usually with two people either double-teaming or tilting," Allen told "That creates more space for guys like Me and Paul to do what we do. In a lot of ways, he really has made the game a lot simpler in terms of getting good looks."

Allen is on track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made prior to the all-star break next month. He's also shooting a career-best 47.3 percent from 3-point range. Pierce, the reigning 3-point shooting champion, has connected on 41.2 percent of his 3s while shooting a career-high 51.1 percent from the field.

Point guard Rajon Rondo is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, which is also a career-best.

O'Neal being less than enthused about his matchup with Howard may in part be fueled by what happened the last time these two teams played on Christmas in which the Magic prevailed, 86-78.

Scoring was a challenge for both teams that night, especially for Boston which played most of the game with O'Neal on the bench in foul trouble.

He finished with a season-low 13 minutes of action, while Howard, also hampered to some degree by foul trouble, played 33 minutes which is below his season average.

Not only did the Celtics lose, but O'Neal had to fork over 35,000 to the league for his comments about the way the game was officiated.

"I guess they came out to see number 26 today," said O'Neal, who was referring to official Bob Delaney. "He (No. 26) was a great player out there today."

Still, their presence will be a matchup most fans will be looking forward to seeing.

"If both of them could stay out of foul trouble," said Rajon Rondo. "It's a big, I would say, round 2. I know he's (O'Neal) is up for the challenge. I don't know if he's psyched, but he's a competitive guy. He's not going to back down."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.