By A. Sherrod Blakely
HOUSTON Shaquille O'Neal is back with the Boston Celtics, running up and down the floor as they prepare to face the Houston Rockets tonight.
But that's the extent of what he's going to be providing the Celtics right now.
Despite being with the team for this three-game road trip, coach Doc Rivers said he doesn't anticipate O'Neal will play in any of the three games.
"I doubt if he plays on this trip, but he's close enough," said Rivers. "When they get close, we always bring them on trips because of shoot-arounds, and he can be involved in stuff that we're doing."
O'Neal, who hasn't played for the C's since Jan. 21, is looking forward to being around the team more.
"Playing by yourself, doing sprints by yourself is different from being in a game," said O'Neal, who hopes to practice with the team early next week. "I haven't been able to simulate game-type situations yet. You can only do so much by yourself. The true test is when I get out there with the guys, banging and pushing and off-balance. We'll see from there."
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn
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BOSTON – There is no mistaking DeMarcus Cousins is priority No. 1 when it comes to beating the Sacramento Kings.
But dealing with elite individual players hasn’t been a huge problem for the Celtics.
It’s their supporting cast that are usually the game’s biggest difference-makers and where the Celtics have faltered.
Limiting Sacramento’s role players will be key to the Celtics (10-8) getting back on a winning track after losing 121-114 at home to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Going into that game, all eyes were on Andre Drummond who has emerged as one of the league’s premier centers. And the former UConn product didn’t disappoint as he scored 25 points to go with 17 rebounds.
But Drummond’s play didn’t decide the game’s outcome.
It was the dribble-drive penetration of Ish Smith (19 points, eight rebounds, eight assists), the red-hot shooting of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (25 points) and the inside-outside work of Jon Leuer (12 points, seven rebounds) that ultimately sealed the Celtics’ fate.
The Kings (7-11) have a number of players that, in addition to Cousins, can be problematic for the Celtics if they are not careful.
Rudy Gay, whose name will continue to be thrown about as potentially being traded, has put up borderline All-Star numbers for most of his career.
This season, the 10-year veteran is averaging 19.6 points, 3.1 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game from the wing-forward position.
Darren Collison is averaging 12.9 points per game along with 4.9 assists from the point guard position. While he’s not known as a great shooter (he’s shooting 34.8 percent on 3s this season), his speed and ability to get into the paint is something the Celtics have to limit.
The bottom line is Boston’s defense has to do a better job at not only accounting for the King’s main star, but also the talent around him.
“There’s a reason why guys are in the NBA,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com recently. “You know everybody in this league can play and if you’re not careful, they can play well against you and your team. We just have to do a better job defensively against everyone, really.”
And part of that starts with having the right attitude.
“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s not been an ongoing thing. It happened [against Detroit] and it happened in the Denver game; a couple games. For the most part we’ve been trying to impose our will first.”