On Sunday afternoon, prior to the Celtics' series opener against the Miami Heat, Doc Rivers told the media he expected Shaquille O'Neal back in this series, "by Game 3, for sure."
Now that Game 3 is approaching, the coach isn't going back on his word.
"I am expecting Shaq," Rivers said of Saturday's Game 3. "He told me he's going to play, and [trainer Ed Lacerte] thought he could play.
"If he didn't play, it would be because something went wrong in practice, or with his body. But I do expect him to play."
As for his exact role, it's hard to know what to expect from the lumbering 39-year-old big man. He's played exactly five minutes and 29 seconds of basketball since Feb. 1, and he's done very little in practice the past week.
Rivers has already promised that Shaq won't start — he'll come off the bench behind 32-year-old Jermaine O'Neal.
"I have no idea," Rivers said, when asked how much Shaq will play. "I really don't. I don't say that to be funny, I just really don't know. I know he's going to be big, I know that."
As for the rest of the squad, there have been other minor injuries hampering them this week, including some back pain for Rajon Rondo, chest pain for Ray Allen and a strained Achilles' tendon for Paul Pierce. But all 15 players on the Celtics' roster practiced Thursday, and Rivers expects all 15 to be available Saturday for Game 3.
"I think Rondo's fine," the coach said. "I think everyone's fine. I really do. The only injury we were really concerned with was obviously Shaq's, and then the other one was Paul's. Other than that, J.O.'s got a stiff back, and Rondo's got his. Guys get injured. But no injuries are keeping them from playing."
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