ShaqWatch: C's eye Friday practice

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The latest hope for Shaq: A return to practice on Friday.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers saw right through the question. Asked if he expected all members of his team to be on the court for practice Wednesday, Rivers smiled and shot back, "You mean, do I expect [Shaquille O'Neal] to practice today? Is that what you’re asking?"

As the ShaqWatch continues, of course that's what was being asked.

"Shaq is not going to practice today, and he will not practice [Thursday]," said Rivers. "We hope he’ll practice the next day, whatever day that would be. Is that Friday? OK, we hope he’s back on Friday. But we don’t know, we’ll see."

Rivers later admitted that O'Neal, limited to 5½ minutes of action since Feb. 1 due to right Achilles and calf injuries, is doing "a lot better," but wouldn't start speculating about his availability for Game 1 of the next round.

"It really depends, not just on Friday, but Friday and Saturday, so I don't know," said Rivers. "I don't know if I'm confident or not. I'm hopeful."

The Celtics took Monday and Tuesday off and Rivers zipped home to Orlando for the break. Asked if the team had examined O'Neal during the lull in activity, Rivers quipped: "I didn't take a look at anybody. Unless he was in Orlando, Florida, I didn't see Shaq -- and Shaq could have been in Orlando, now that I think about it."

A return to practice on Friday has potential to allow O'Neal to ramp up activity in time for the next round, which would start Sunday in Miami if the Heat win either of the next two games against the Philadelphia. If the 76ers, currently in a 3-1 hole, rally to force a Game 7, that would allow the team even more time to try to get Shaq healthy again.