The Knicks weren't exactly shedding a tear at practice today, knowing Shaquille O'Neal won't be suiting up tomorrow night.
The Big Aristotle has been ruled out, unable to go in the first game of the Knicks' Eastern Conference first-round matchup with the Celtics at TD Garden in Boston. O'Neal's Achilles tendon and strained right calf haven't healed sufficiently enough to allow him to play.
He's missed a ton of action this season, playing in only 37 games and basically sitting out the final 34 games with the exception of a five-minute cameo.
"[Shaq's] been making progress and we tried to get him out there to practice today, to simulate a game as much as we could and he's not ready," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told reporters in Boston following practice today. "We don't know when he'll be ready, and we'll just keep evaluating him day to day."
The news that Shaq is out didn't exactly have the Knicks doing cartwheels. But there's no debating it gives the undersized Knicks' front line a bit more breathing room than it would have if the 7-1, 325-pounder actually played.
"Well, there’s different things that open up and exploit what they might do differently," Mike D'Antoni said. "But he’s a big presence and I’m not real comfortable with saying, ' Wow. I wish he was playing.' Not at all. He’s too good. And like I’ve said, I hate it for him personally. But it helps us if he doesn't play. There’s no doubt about it."
"Well, he changes the game good or bad and he’s obviously not ready yet," D'Antoni added. "So I hate it for him. He’s a great guy and I know he tried like heck to get back, but sometimes that happens. They’ve got enough players, I think, that they don’t have to worry about that. But that’s one less."
Amar'e Stoudemire didn't seem ready to get lulled into a false sense of security knowing he might have more room to roam in the paint against a Shaq-less Boston.
"They are still going to be a hard team to beat regardless, whether Shaq is in there or not," Stoudemire said. "Again, they are a sound veteran team. They know how to win in the postseason. So it doesn't really affect them much, and I think that is just going to raise up the expectations for the rest of the guys.
"They are going to be ready to go."