Pregame notes: D-West returns to Boston

NEW YORK -- A collection of news and notes before the Boston Celtics visited the New York Knicks for an exhibition battle Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden:


After sitting out Tuesday's game in Philadelphia, Celtics guard Delonte West returned to Boston Wednesday to receive additional treatment on his ailing back, but coach Doc Rivers said "there's a very good chance" West could be back on the court in time for Saturday's rematch with the Knicks in Hartford.

"I guess he has an advantage with the 10 games [suspension to start the season]," said Rivers. "So in some ways, we're going to be careful with that and let him get healthy."

West developed back spasms last week, keeping him out of a practice session before the team launched into exhibition play. He returned for the preseason opener in Manchester, N.H., but developed tension in the back the next night in New Jersey and left the game in the second half.

The back flared up again this week, keeping him off the court Tuesday in Philadelphia before the team decided to send him home instead of having him accompany the team to Toronto for yet another preseason game on Friday night.


Shaquille O'Neal will sit out his second consecutive exhibition game with lingering soreness in his 38-year-old hips. But that didn't stop him from reveling in the New York scene, coming out to address (and entertain) a media throng for more than 20 minutes before Wednesday's game.

Shaq left New York reporters grinning from the get-go when he shrugged off questions about Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov.

"What Russian guy?" Shaq responded when asked about Mozgov. "What's his name? No, I don't know who he is."

Mozgov shouldn't take it personally. Remember, Shaq is the same guy who didn't know who Luke Harangody was when his contract signing was announced at Shaq's introductory press conference, and O'Neal affectionately referred to Semih Erden as "the Turkish dude" or "the Turkish cat" for the first couple weeks of the preseason.

More from Shaq:

*The state of the Knicks: "They should be a playoff-contending team."

*Centers in the NBA: "I killed off the centers now, all the centers wanted to play European-style basketball. Only 1.5 or 2 real centers left, that's Dwight Howard and Yao Ming, and every now and then Yao Ming steps outside and wants to shoot jumpers."

*His Boston nicknames: "It's the Big Shamrock a.k.a Blackie Bulger a.k.a The Godfather of Sudbury."

*Being the greatest athlete rapper of all time: "I would agree. I was the one that did everything right, made it to the top and did it respectfully and kept it going. Lot of guys try to come in, but I actually came in from the bottom, worked my way up with the crew, did this, and did it better. Just a young kid coming from projects of Newark, N.J."


* Rivers said reserve forward/center Glen Davis' knee is sore and that it might limit his minutes Wednesday. Rivers had hoped to (finally) experiment with a lineup that featured Davis and Kevin Garnett, along with shooters Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (and, before his back acted up, West). Alas, that configuration might have to wait yet again with Boston battling small injuries. Rivers admitted that minor injuries are likely going to be an ongoing issue throughout the season, which he believes puts an even greater focus on bench play carrying the team until the postseason arrives.

* After his ankle tightened up in the second half of his NBA debut Tuesday in Philadelphia, rookie Avery Bradley said the injury responded well Wednesday and he's hopeful to log more game action this evening against the Knicks. One thing Bradley isn't looking forward to is singing "Happy Birthday" to the three birthday boys: Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal and Pierce. "We haven't had to do anything yet, but we probably will after the game," said Bradley, who paused for a moment, then clarified, "No, I know we'll have to after the game."

* Rivers, who turned 49, joked about his anticipation of receiving his AARP card next year. "Oh, I'm signing up for it. I've got no pride," said Rivers. "They mail it to you the day you turn 50, too. I can't wait. Movies are ridiculous now." Rivers also acknowledged the rookies would be singing by night's end, having already serenaded Maine Red Claws coach Austin Ainge during training camp in Newport, R.I. "They're going to sing again, they know that," said Rivers. "They just don't know when. I'm trying to get the Garden to let them do it at midcourt. I don't think that's going to happen."