Celtics

J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs

191544.jpg

J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SAN ANTONIO Unless there's an unexpected turn for the worse -- and when you're talking about the Boston Celtics, nothing related to injuries can be ruled out entirely -- Jermaine O'Neal will be back in the Celtics lineup Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

O'Neal, out since having left knee surgery in early February, returned to practice on Wednesday.

Coach Doc Rivers, who has had his share of injuries suffered in practice, didn't know what to expect.

"He had a good practice," Rivers said. "He missed shots and all that stuff, but overall, I thought he was terrific."

Rivers added that he thought O'Neal's quickness and activity after such a lengthy layoff were better than he anticipated.

"I was happy," Rivers said. "I was very happy with him."

Afterward, O'Neal was feeling pretty good, as well.

"It felt good; first day," O'Neal said. "It felt good, just to get some of the terminology back. For the most part, physically I feel strong."

Of course, O'Neal has to make it through the next 24 hours without no significant pain or soreness in order for the Celtics to feel comfortable with him playing against the Spurs.

That shouldn't be a problem, not with O'Neal spending the past few weeks working out in Chicago and not having any kind of significant soreness or swelling afterward.

There's no telling how many minutes O'Neal will play against San Antonio.

But the truth is, it really doesn't matter.

As much as they would like to have O'Neal playing solid at both ends of the floor, they need him as another big body even more.

He's not expecting to put up big numbers in his return.

More than anything, he's concerned with helping the C's get a victory.

"That's what this is all about," he told CSNNE.com. "Trying to help this team win games now, and in the playoffs. Nothing else -- my numbers or what have you -- means anything. It's all about finding ways to win games."

Also present at practice Wednesday was Von Wafer, who is recovering from a strained right calf.

Shaquille O'Neal and Troy Murphy were the only two players not in attendance.

Shaquille O'Neal's return date is tentatively scheduled for April 5 at home against Philadelphia, but, as it has in the past, could be pushed back.

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

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

MORE:

Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE