Celtics Keep Jermaine O’Neal Out of Practice With Hamstring Strain


WALTHAM, Mass. — With this Celtics team, there was concern from day one that injuries would creep up on their aging veteran core. Turns out it didn't take long.

Jermaine O'Neal was off the floor for the Celtics' first practice back in Waltham on Monday afternoon, nursing a sore left hamstring. Meanwhile, Delonte West pulled out of practice as well, citing back spasms.

With O'Neal, who turns 32 next week and has 14 years of NBA mileage on his body, the Celtics are making sure to be extra cautious. There's no sense in taking risks with the lumbering O'Neal this early in the fall.

"He's probably out this whole week," head coach Doc Rivers said Monday. "It's a hamstring, and we cannot take a chance with that."

O'Neal, who says he tweaked the hamstring on Friday afternoon while scrimmaging against Shaquille O'Neal, insists that the injury isn't that bad, and he's eager to get back on the floor.

"I'm thinking more day to day," the center said. "A week is probably the longest I could be out. It's a little tweak. I'm confident that I'll be back."

With Jermaine O'Neal off to the side during Monday's workouts, working on his free throws and avoiding full-contact scrimmages, Shaquille O'Neal worked with the Celtics' starting five, and Turkish rookie Semih Erden got his chance with the second unit.

Rivers is hopeful about getting the younger O'Neal back on the floor and working with him more this preseason. He's still got plenty to learn about the Celtics' system.

"Jermaine's up-and-down," the coach said. "He's trying to figure things out, you know. I thought he was playing a little tentative the first couple of days, because when you're playing with a new team you're not playing, you're thinking, and that makes you more tentative. But other than that, I've loved what he was doing. He was starting to make shots from the outside, and he looked really good."

As for West, the situation is less serious, and the team is optimistic that the backup guard will be over his back pain soon.

"Delonte will be back soon," Rivers said. "Maybe [Tuesday], maybe a couple more days. He's just got back spasms, and there's no reason to push him."

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