OFFSEASON

Shaq's 1-on-1 with Blakely: Hint at return?

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Shaq's 1-on-1 with Blakely: Hint at return?

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

ORLANDO, Fla. Shaquille O'Neal has every intention of never lacing up for an NBA game again.

His mind and body are both in agreement on that - right now.

But the right Achilles injury that limited him during the 2010-2011 season - and essentially led to his announced retirement on Friday - will be surgically repaired soon.

A healthy Achilles means a healthier O'Neal, who acknowledged that the recovery time from the injury will last about nine months which just so happens to be right about when the Boston Celtics will be within weeks of another playoff run.

Can that run include a return by O'Neal?

"Probably not," O'Neal told Comcast SportsNet moments after announcing his retirement at his home in Orlando, Fla.

When reminded that such an answer leaves the door for speculation open wide open, O'Neal responded, "I say probably not; you finish the sentence how you want to finish it."

OK.

If O'Neal has the surgery and he's feeling back to his not-so-old self, no one would be surprised if he decided to return to Boston for one last shot at a title.

"I don't think he'll be like Brett Favre and go back and forth, over and over again," said one Eastern Conference executive on Friday. "But if he does have some kind of surgery and he's feeling pretty good and maybe most important, the Celtics need another big man, I think the expectation becomes that at the very least, both him and the Celtics would think about trying to make it work."

But first things first.

O'Neal said he will meet with Celtics team physician Dr. Brian McKeon in a few weeks to figure out a time to do the surgery.

"Right now, I still have a limp. My back is off, my hip is off," O'Neal said. "I have to get my body right."

And that is why a return by O'Neal seems more likely than one by another former No. 36 for the C's, Rasheed Wallace.

When Wallace walked away from the game following Boston's Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, he was both mentally and physically worn down.

He had essentially nothing left to give the C's.

The issues affecting O'Neal are quite different.

He has retired from the game for one reason - he's not physically able to play anymore.

But another trip under the knife could change that, and in effect, potentially change his outlook on retirement.

When you look back on the Celtics this past season, you can't help but recognize how dominant they were when O'Neal was healthy.

In the 25 games he played 21 or more minutes, the Celtics were a gaudy 21-4.

Although his role was limited, he was the one player that no team could match up with and expect to be successful.

"Everybody knows if I was at least 80 percent healthy, we could have gont it done," O'Neal said. "If we would have got past Miami, we would be playing now."

And while O'Neal talked about the many opportunities that await him in retirement, you can't help but get the feeling that if the body could get right, the mind would soon follow.

So for all those looking at his No. 36 jersey as a throwback, you might want to hold off on that.

Because the playing days of O'Neal won't ever be what they were during his 20-point10-rebound days.

But to say his career is done for sure?

No one's buying that - not even Shaq.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

OFFSEASON

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

BOSTON – The Celtics are considered long shots at landing Kevin Durant during free agency, which begins next week.

Still, if they come up short this summer, league sources tell CSNNE.com that the Celtics will be on a “watch list” of sorts by Durant’s camp when the former league MVP is expected to hit the free agent market once again in the summer of 2017.
 
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Durant will have teams meet with him in New York beginning next week. In addition to the Celtics, his current team Oklahoma City will sit down with him, as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Durant can re-sign with the Thunder for as many as five years with the total value of his contract worth slightly more than $150 million.
 
However, by signing a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option for the second season, Durant would make a projected $25.9 million for the 2016-2017 season and can then hit the free agent market again in 2017 when the salary cap is expected to cross the nine-figure threshold.
 
And at that time, if he decides to stay with the Thunder, he can ink a five-year deal that, when combined with his salary in 2016-2017, would be more than $230 million over six years – that’s about $80 million more than he would get by re-signing a long-term deal with the Thunder now, and would more than double what he would make by signing a maximum-salaried four-year deal with another team.
 
That’s why it makes a lot of sense for him to sign a short-term deal now and better position himself for a bigger payday the following summer when his starting salary will likely be on the north side of $35 million.
 
For the Celtics, Durant going through free agency back-to-back years affords coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics one more opportunity to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings while still being a team that’s clearly in need of adding at least one additional All-Star talent to play with Isaiah Thomas.

In his three seasons as the Celtics coach, Stevens has improved the team’s win total each season.
 
However, they have failed to win a playoff series after having been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
 
While Durant is the team’s No. 1 priority on the free agent market, the Celtics will quickly pivot their attentions to other highly-regarded players as well with Atlanta’s Al Horford being among their targets.

Depending on how quickly Durant’s free agency gets taken care of, the Celtics might be able to turn their attention towards potentially re-signing Evan Turner, who was sixth in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting last season.

OFFSEASON

Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

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Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

With the Celtics reportedly in the running in the Kevin Durant Derby, C's guard Isaiah Thomas is continuing his recruiting pitch with this playful tweet.

Thomas said in a radio interview earlier this week that the Celtics "definitely have a shot" at landing Durant and a few months ago, Thomas' essay in the Players Tribune is perhaps his best sales job of all.