Shaq set to make postseason debut with Celtics tonight

Shaq set to make postseason debut with Celtics tonight

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON At some point tonight, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Shaquille O'Neal will make his long-awaited playoff debut for the C's.

O'Neal, who hasn't played since re-aggravating a right calfAchilles injury on April 3 against Detroit, will come off the bench.

"I just think that's tough," Rivers said when asked about not starting O'Neal. "There's a lot of defensive changes you have to make with him on the floor as well. That's just too much."

The fact that O'Neal has played less than six minutes since February brings his conditioning - never something that has been a strength of his - into question.

"That's why you can't get off to a tough start if conditioning is a problem," Rivers said. "It will be. That's what you use time-outs for, and that's what you use your eyes for. Hopefully we can see it."

Having O'Neal available gives the Celtics a much-needed inside presence, both offensively and defensively.

His ability to score around the basket, draw fouls and lots of attention should help the Celtics offense flow better.

And while he is very much a defensively liability, especially in pick-and-roll situations, O'Neal has the ability to clog up the lane should take away some of the driving lanes that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been cruising into in the first two games.

"Any additions to our lineup, regardless of who plays, is a help," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "Shaq coming back is a huge help for us."

O'Neal, 39, the oldest player in the NBA, has appeared in a career-low 37 regular season games this season. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds - also career lows.

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

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

WALTHAM, Mass. – The right Achilles’ strain that has kept Avery Bradley out of five of the Celtics’ past six games, will continue to keep the 6-foot-2 guard sidelined.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will not play Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Stevens added that no additional tests have been taken and the Achilles’ itself is structurally fine.
“He’s got a lot of soreness around it, and that’s one of those things you have to be ultra-careful with,” said Stevens, who later added that Bradley would not practice with the team today. “When he [Bradley] came back, he said he felt a lot better, and then he played and the next day he practiced. We didn’t do anything live but he did a lot of cutting and did not feel near as good. That’s why he didn’t play Wednesday.”
The absence of Bradley was clearly felt in a 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a game in which Knicks guard Derrick Rose – the man Bradley would have likely spent defending most of the game – scored 30 points.
This season, all-NBA first team defender is  the Celtics’ No. 2 scorer at 17 points per game along with averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds.
In addition, Bradley is shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from 3-point range, as well as dishing out 2.4 assists per game, which also represents a career-high for the 26-year-old.


Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

WALTHAM, Mass. – To dunk or not to dunk with the best in the NBA?
That is the question Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown is grappling with these days.
The 6-foot-7 Brown confirmed that he has been invited to be part of the league’s Slam Dunk competition at All-Star weekend, but hasn’t made up his mind as to whether he will participate.
Brown said he’ll likely make a decision about it sometime this weekend.
While he certainly understands that is indeed an honor for any player to be asked to participate in All-Star weekend, Brown said his trepidation about being part of the slam dunk competition has a lot to do with its potential impact on his body and how that may affect his ability to recharge over the weekend and get ready to finish out his rookie season strong.
If he decided to enter the contest, he would be facing some really stiff competition from last year’s winner Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, whose battle last season put their slam dunk competition among the best ever.
Facing tough competition is not something that concerns Brown.
“I’m not worried about anybody or anything,” Brown said. “I think I have a lot to offer. Just like your rookie year, your body and everything … it’s a lot. All those dunks, they look cool but it takes a toll on your body for sure. I want to put myself in the best position to help the team.”
While his focus has been on the Celtics, Brown acknowledged he has been getting a few tips on the competition from teammate Gerald Green, who is also a former Slam Dunk champion.
“[Gerald] Green has been coaching me up, giving me a lot of good ideas I wouldn’t have thought on my own,” Brown said. “If I do decide to do it, it’ll be some stuff [nobody] has seen before.”