Celtics

Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

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Shaq: I'm '85 percent' healed

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Last season, the Boston Celtics adopted a philosophy of giving players "strategic rest" throughout the season.

Well, it appears that may very well be the case with Shaquille O'Neal and his assortment of right leg injuries.

O'Neal has missed Boston's last 13 games with either a right Achilles tendon or right foot injury.

On Monday, O'Neal said both injuries are bothering him.

But of the two, the Achilles Tendon injury is the one of greater concern.

"It gets better than comes back, it gets better than comes back," O'Neal said. "But Dr. Brian McKeon has done a great job, been working on it twice a day, so I'll be back."

He told reporters on Monday that he's "about 85 percent" healthy, but added his time off the court has been due to the Celtics coaches and medical staff wanting him to be at full strength before returning.

"I would have liked to be out there with the guys on Sunday at Milwaukee, but they wanted me back 100 percent," O'Neal said. "I tried to run the other day and it felt really good, but I had to take a step back so hopefully in a few days, or in a week or so, I'll be back."

In other words, O'Neal - much like the C's coaching staff and medical staff - don't have a definitive timetable for his return to the lineup.

While the C's are certainly a better team with O'Neal in the lineup, there are benefits to him sitting out a few more games.

Boston essentially got rid of a third of its roster within the last two weeks, so there's a lot of teaching going on right now.

Without O'Neal in the rotation, this allows some of Boston's new big men, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy specifically, a chance to play meaningful minutes to better enhance their familiarity with their new teammates.

"You know they looked pretty good," O'Neal said of the newest Celtics. "They looked comfortable. Doc's done a great job of getting them in and getting them out. It's kind of a new team. From here on in, it's important that everyone gets in and we get our rhythm going into the postseason."

Of all the newcomers, Krstic, who starts at center in place of O'Neal, has made the greatest impact.

In five games as the C's starting center - all Celtics wins - Krstic is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Still, he understands that his play - much like the rest of the Celtics newcomers - is a work in progess.

"Still adjusting," he told CSNNE.com. "Everything is new for me. It's . . . everybody is helpful. Everybody is trying to help. Still, it's hard to make that transition; just trying to do my best on the court, give 100 percent when I play."

It remains to be seen what Krstic's role will be when O'Neal returns.

Because by all indications, O'Neal will come back as the starting center.

His impact with the Celtics goes beyond his meager numbers - 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Because O'Neal draws so much attention when he's on the floor, that has allowed Boston shooters such as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen better looks at the basket.

With better looks, both Pierce and Allen are enjoying career seasons shooting the ball from the field and 3-point range, respectively.

Despite the injuries, O'Neal said his focus now isn't any different than it was from Day One.

"We're all here for 18-25," said O'Neal, referring to Banner 18 for the C's, championship number '2' for the Big Three and title number '5' for himself.

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

Why did Kyrie want to leave Cavs? He's not saying

Why did Kyrie want to leave Cavs? He's not saying

CLEVELAND – Tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for Kyrie Irving, who spent his first six NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
 
Parting ways is a common occurrence in the NBA so that in itself makes Irving’s return pretty normal.

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Still, this basketball break-up was unlike any we’ve seen in the NBA in recent years.
 
At a time when most players are scurrying as fast as they can to latch on with a title contender, Irving literally went in the opposite direction and asked to be traded from a team that has been to the NBA Finals the past three seasons.
 
And he did so while coming off his best season as an NBA player.
 
So, it only stands to reason that he would be asked about that decision on the eve of his first game back in town.
 
However, Irving’s response to the question did not shed any light on the matter, which is just how he wants it to be.
 
“Well guys, going forward, I want to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out or dive into or continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged because it’s not important,” Irving said. “This was literally a decision that I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and continue to progress. And that’s what I’m gonna continue to do.”
 
Part of that push forward involves helping the Celtics get off to a good start tonight in their season opener at Cleveland.
 
This is a game that’s full of storyline and narratives that only enhance the matchup between arguably the top two teams in the East.
 
But nothing compares to the interest that still exists in Irving’s unexpected decision to ask for a trade back in July, which led to him being traded to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the rights to Brooklyn's 2018 first- round pick and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick.  
 
“I’m just happy to get the season started, regardless of who we play,” said Irving, 25, an All-Star in four of his six seasons with the Cavs. Obviously, it’s made a much bigger deal because it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. The situation that happened this summer and being part of a great trade. I’m just truly appreciative of having the opportunity to play this game on the biggest stage and be back here in Cleveland to start the season, it feels different but I’m ready to get started.”
 
In addition to the excitement of the game, Cleveland has reportedly prepared a video tribute to Irving that will play at some point in a stoppage of play tonight.
 
“It’s a great honor and truly appreciative of all individuals who put the video together,” Irving said. “Those special relationships don’t go anywhere; just excited to see a lot of old friends and get on with the game.”

Ditto for Celtics coach Brad Stevens who, like Irving, has maintained a level-headed approach to a game that has so many subplots to it.
 
“I know this sounds like a broken record, but play the next possession to the best of our ability,” Stevens said. “What are we gonna do about that? Ultimately, we’re on the road, people are going to cheer against us. It’s the way it works in the NBA. It’ll be a great atmosphere in here tonight. Focus on the task at hand. We play 82 of these; get used to playing through distractions.”
 
Irving echoed similar sentiments while acknowledging how unique tonight’s opener is for all involved.
 
“It’s just one game,” he said. “We all understand that. For me, it comes with a lot of added incentive to go out there and really have fun and play the game I love. I’m really excited to start this season, and get started with the Boston Celtics and continue on with my career.”