MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggested that both Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal could be sidelined for Thursday's showdown with the Miami Heat, but said it was too early to tell whether either player will be able to suit up for the sequel to opening night.
Speaking to reporters before Boston's offday practice session Wednesday morning at the American Airlines Arena, Rivers hedged his bets on whether either O'Neal will suit up. At least one has played in every game this season, but never both (Shaq played the first three games; Jermaine O'Neal the last five).
What Rivers did know was that Shaq, sidelined with a right knee bruise sustained in a win over the Knicks last month, was set to test his knee at the session, while Jermaine O'Neal planned to sit out the practice.
"No, I have no idea [about Thursday]," said Rivers. "J.O. will not practice [Wednesday] and Shaq's going to try to do a little bit [Wednesday] to test it. I would say likely neither [will play Thursday]; Maybe out first adventure into the no-big world. But we'll see. Maybe both. Who knows?"
Shaq, sporting two over-sized black knee braces with protective casing near the fibula on both sides, said he was eager to test the injury
"I'm going to try it out today, but, yes, I'm feeling better," said Shaq.
Added Rivers: "Listen, I don’t know how much he’s going to give us, No. 1., and, if he can give us a lot [Wednesday], I’m not going to allow him to give too much, because I'd rather have that [Thursday]."
Jermaine O'Neal indicated he's feeling better after knee soreness forced him to sit out the second half of Monday's loss in Dallas, but said he wouldn't know his status for Thursday until after the team's morning shootaround on gameday.
"I'm feeling better," said Jermaine O'Neal, wearing a white-gauze wrap over the left knee, but still reluctant to reveal too much on the injury, including the full details of a recent "procedure" on it.
"It's a little better than it was [Tuesday]. I'm just trying to gauge the pain factor. I’ll know [Thursday morning], it won't be a game-time decision for me. It may even be after shootaround. We're just trying to figure out what's actually happening -- why the knee is all of a sudden swelling.
"I think it could be situation where, I did have a procedure done, basically I didn’t take time off after the procedure and kind of aggravated it."
While certainly not ideal, the Celtics knew when signing the O'Neals this offseason that this might happen due to advanced age. When faced with this possibility last week, Rivers suggested the Celtics might start rookie center Semih Erden, as not to alter Glen Davis' role as first big off the bench. While not tipping his hand for Thursday, it's something Boston could consider again if neither O'Neal can dress.
"We knew that before the year, if we were honest with ourselves," Rivers said. "I actually told [the media] that there will be games, and I honestly believed it, but was hoping [the Celtics could avoid the injuries], and that we wouldn't have either guy. It's just what it is. We're trying to get Semih as many minutes as possible. When [the O'Neals] are both healthy and both playing, we're really good. We just haven't had that this year. So for us, we have to get through it. Obviously, it's a little earlier than we anticipated, but we're prepared for it."
Shaq admitted his decision to play might ultimately be based on whether Jermaine O'Neal can dress. Both players have pushed themselves back into activity when it's clear the other one can't go. And while it's simply Game No. 9 of 82 in a long regular season, Thursday's showdown with the Heat, in front of a national TV audience, certainly could force both O'Neals to consider playing through the pain.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Rivers indicated Rajon Rondo and his plantar fasciitis remains a focus, but less of a concern given the extra time off around upcoming games (especially a three-day break looming after Saturday's road-trip finale in Memphis).
"We just gotta manage his foot," said Rivers. "Just gotta be careful with it."
Reserve guard Delonte West, who is nearing the end of his 10-game suspension, did not join the team in Miami Wednesday. Eligible to return when the Celtics host the Wizards next Wednesday at the TD Garden, Boston explored the idea of bringing him down to workout on offdays, but may ultimately leave him home with at least two days of practice next week before his 2010-11 debut.