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


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

By A. Sherrod Blakely

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."


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 Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics will be a bit shorthanded for the first few games of the season with Marcus Smart being out with a left ankle sprain injury.
The Celtics were holding out slim hope that it would heal in time for tomorrow’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Smart confirmed a report shortly after the injury on October 19 that it would likely be at least a couple weeks before he returned to action.
Following Tuesday’s practice, one in which Smart watched from the sidelines, he gave an update on his ankle injury which occurred in the Celtics’ last preseason game, a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks.
“A couple weeks, that’s the projection (of a return) they gave me,” Smart said. “They want to make sure we can limit this from happening again.”
Smart said the two-week timetable began from the time of his injury, which means it’s likely that he will miss the Celtics’ first four games of the season.
That’s a much rosier timetable than the left ankle sprain injury Smart suffered as a rookie which kept him sidelined for several weeks afterwards.
“It shouldn’t be too long,” Smart said. “Better safe than sorry.”
His absence will certainly have an impact on a Celtics defense that ranked among the NBA’s best a year ago, and has only gotten stronger with the addition of Al Horford.
But the Celtics have been a "next man up" team for since Stevens has been the head coach. With Smart out, that’s not going to change.
“That’ll be a great opportunity for someone else to step up in his place,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston guard Isaiah Thomas echoed similar thoughts.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next man has to step up,” Thomas said. “Guys have to take advantage of these opportunities.”
And for Smart, it’ll mean displaying his leadership skills from the sideline.
He’s totally comfortable taking on that role right now.
For his teammates, it might take a little bit of getting used to. Smart has been very loquacious on the Celtics sideline since suffering the injury.
“These last four days, he has been yelling … I told him to shut up a few times,” quipped Isaiah Thomas. “That’s just him, especially when he’s not playing. He’s very vocal.”
Terry Rozier, the likely benefactor in terms of minutes played due to Smart’s injury, agreed.
“He’s been sitting right there in that seat,” said Rozier, adding, “and he hasn’t shut up yet. It’s good; you’re going to need a guy like that who is going to talk to you. It’s like a guy, he says things … it’s like he’s been in the league 10 years. He knows his stuff.”
Smart’s knowledge bank includes understanding that his current injury will probably happen again at some point. The key isn’t dealing with the injury, but how you move forward from it.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last,” Smart said. “I just have to let it heal on its own and let your body do what it does.”