Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

Celtics notes: Jermaine practices; Shaq sits

By Jessica Camerato

WALTHAM - There were new faces on the court during Celtics practice on Saturday and one noticeable absentee. Jermaine O'Neal and Avery Bradley returned from injuries to practice with the team, while Shaquille O'Neal sat this one out.

Shaq was bothered by his hips and stayed off the court. "That'll be an issue, on and off at times," said coach Doc Rivers. "We're prepared for that."

As for Jermaine O'Neal, he completed the Celtics' two-hour practice after being sidelined by a sore left hamstring. He admitted he was tired but was happy to be on the court with his new teammates. The Celtics had been looking forward to playing alongside him.

"It was very good having JO back out there," said Kevin Garnett. "If we're going to be anything this year, we're going to need his contributions. He looked really good today. He looked explosive. A good day."

Rivers says Jermaine O'Neal will be a game-time decision for Sunday's match against the Toronto Raptors.

Rivers expects Delonte West to play on Sunday after the guard left Thursday's game against the New Jersey Nets with discomfort in his lower back. "He practiced. He went through the whole practice as well, so everybody was good," said Rivers, adding, "He'll play, unless something happens, but I think he'll play."

Avery Bradley completed his first full practice with the team after undergoing ankle surgery over the summer. The rookie had been anxious to hit the court with the Celtics after watching from a distance.

"I just wanted to gain their respect," he told CSNNE.com. "I hadn't really got out on the court, so today that's what I wanted to do. Go out there and practice hard and show them that I'm with them."

Bradley tried to push his ankle and was pleasantly surprised that he could run up and down with the team and make certain cuts that he wasn't sure he could make. "It went very well," he said.

He doesn't know when he can play in a game and is taking it "day by day."

Bradley and fellow rookie Luke Harangody were the last players to leave the court after practice.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks


WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.


He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”