Shaq will survive. In the second quarter, Shaq went down with a calf strain that Doc Rivers later called “very minor.” It looked worse than that, mostly because Shaq reacted like he got shot in the leg, but the team swears the injury was not very severe. And the Celtics never lie about injuries.
(Thinks back to Kevin Garnett’s, umm, “strained muscle behind his knee“—ahem, ahem—in ’09. Thinks about Jermaine O’Neal being listed as “day-to-day” in January, then having surgery for the same injury. Thinks about Shaq being one week away for the past two months. Thinks about not knowing there was fluid squirting out of Paul Pierce’s knee last season. Hmm.)
Okay, so maybe they have lied about injuries in the past. I’m not saying they are now. So let’s say Shaq is fine, like they believe. Let’s say he’ll recover from this calf injury in a week or less. Let’s say he’s able to play in Boston’s first playoff game. Tonight STILL showed everything that’s wrong with relying on Shaq in the playoffs. He returned to the court and was injured within six minutes. I repeat: he couldn’t last more than six minutes! (I’m fighting off a “that’s five and a half minutes longer than Rick Pitino lasted with that Karen Sypher chick” joke, but I wouldn’t want to take an unnecessary jab at Pitino. Okay, yes I would. That’s five and a half longer than Rick Pitino lasted with that Karen Sypher chick. Dirk Diggler is not walking through that door.)
When you have a foot injury, you’re the NBA’s oldest player and you weigh 340 pounds, it’s tough to get back into shape. And when you have no time to get back into shape, and you’re just tossed into the lineup to improve conditioning on the fly, injuries happen. Shaq’s body has not been reliable for years, and now the Celtics need him to come off a two month layoff and play serious minutes despite a nagging (and apparently somewhat serious) foot injury. That sounds a lot like praying for rain when you’re in a desert. Sure, maybe it’ll happen. But the odds aren’t good.
Switching gears. There was also a game played, which reminds me: beating the Pistons is like having sex with your wife of 15 years (not that I have a wife of 15 years; I’m just guessing here). It’s nice when it happens, but it’s kind of boring and (at least for the lucky guys whose wives of 15 years still put out routinely) expected. You’d rather have it then not have it, but it’s not likely to be anything earth-shattering. There might be a couple highlights, like when Jeff Green threw down a monstrous alley oop from Delonte West or your wife did something pretty cool, but for the most part it’s mundane and uninspiring.
“Honey, could you please take your pants off?”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Thanks. This is great, by the way.”
“Then why’d you stop, darling?”
“Oh. I finished.”
“I see. Well, it was terrific anyway. Goodnight, then.”
“You too, dear.”
Nineteen turnovers, 64.1% shooting, one Shaq injury, 14 Rondo assists, 23 Garnett points and one marvelously Delonte West-ish performance from Delonte West later, the missionary sex—err, I mean the game—was over. (Note: Just to clarify, I’m not sure why I made two separate sexual metaphors tonight.) The Celtics played well enough, save the turnovers, and getting a win is always nice. But this win would have been a lot more satisfying if Shaq had stayed healthy. Especially considering how helpful he looked during his brief stint on the court.
Instead of raving about Shaq’s successful return, I’m left staring the latest warning sign in the face—maybe relying on a 39-year old with a history of injuries isn’t the best plan of action after all. Oh, well. At least it’s a minor strain. We’ll (probably?) see Shaq again. Hopefully next time, his return will last longer than six minutes.