Coach: Shaquille O'Neal may travel

Updated: April 20, 2011, 10:11 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Shaquille O'Neal's calf injury has shown "some improvement," according to Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and the big man hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's Game 4 against the Knicks.

O'Neal has played only 5½ minutes since Feb. 1 with Achilles and calf injuries.

The team tried last Saturday before Game 1 to get O'Neal on the floor to simulate a pregame warm-up and he couldn't get through the opening running portion without experiencing soreness. The Celtics scrapped the test completely before Game 2 but remain encouraged that more time will eventually allow O'Neal to return to action.

"He's going to try to [get on the court Thursday]," Rivers said. "I just don't see it. I'm just going to be a real doctor right now and say I doubt it. He's going to try to do something [Thursday] and we'll see.

"He's had some improvement, but I don't know how much. I'm just going by what [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and [team physician Dr. Brian] McKeon tell me. They thought he's had some improvement."

O'Neal has been sporting a new brace for his lower right leg, but he has also walked with a noticeable limp in recent days. He stuck his head out from the trainer's room doors as media were on the court for Wednesday's availability but then quickly disappeared.

Rivers said he's uncertain if O'Neal will travel Thursday, but noted that the team's typical history is bringing players on the road when they are nearing a return. O'Neal traveled with the team to New York in late March, then returned to game action against the Detroit Pistons on April 3 before suffering a calf strain that immediately put him back on the shelf.

"I'm not sure yet [if Shaq will travel]," Rivers said. "It depends on what's best. If he's closer to playing -- you know how we've done it -- if you see him on the trip he's really close."

While time lines have often been extended with O'Neal, Rivers was asked flat out if he expects the 39-year-old center to play in the postseason and he said, "Yes."

Rivers then reiterated that he didn't think O'Neal would play in Friday's Game 3 but suggested travel would be a good sign for any game after that.

"If he goes on the trip, that means we think he'll play that Sunday," Rivers said.

O'Neal appeared in 37 games for the Celtics this season, plagued by injuries to the right side of the body, particularly the knee, calf and Achilles. On Saturday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and McKeon held a brief press conference stressing that O'Neal is working hard, but that time is the only remedy to alleviate the soreness that is preventing him from returning to action.

Jermaine O'Neal started both playoff games at center for the Celtics.

Despite the 87-85 and 96-93 victories, Rivers hasn't been pleased with the Celtics performances.

"We can play smarter," he said. "We gave them so many extra possessions and things like that. A lot of it was our rotations that we have to get better at, we have to be smarter at [but] we're 2-0. That's good, and the good thing is we have to play better and we will play better."

Ray Allen, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the opener, isn't thinking about whether the series will be a long one.

"I try not to get too far ahead," he said Wednesday. "The next game can get away from you if you think about the fourth and fifth and sixth games. It's important to just look at the third game."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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