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April 20, 2011

Source: C's not expecting Shaq in playoffs

BOSTON — Shaquille O'Neal may have worn a Boston Celtics uniform for the last time.

In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center won't be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.

It means the other O'Neal — Jermaine, who has had knee problems since opening day, will be the go-to big man with Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic as his backups.

The Celtics came to this conclusion after Shaq failed to complete one simple sprint up and down the court during a "conditioning test" on Saturday, before he limped off the court in Waltham.

The Celtics held out a slim hope Shaq would be able to make his return in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Knicks or possibly in the conference semifinals, if they advanced.

"If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery," said the source, who requested anonymity. "And at his age (he turned 39 on March 6) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly."

A few days ago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers alluded to the possibility, saying his team could win a championship without the oft-injured center.

Shaq had been averaging 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20 minutes a game and made the Celtics a top threat to win their 18th title.

His play was a major reason the Celtics took a risk and traded center Kendrick Perkins on Feb. 24 — for Krstic and Jeff Green.

After playing 16 minutes vs. Sacramento on Feb. 1, he was out until April 3. He looked healthy and showed signs of dominance with six points on 3-of-3 shooting in his comeback vs. Detroit. But he crumpled in pain due to a right calf injury and has been out since.

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