Any Celtics fan would sacrifice last night's win in exchange for a healthy Shaquille O'Neal, but unfortunately that can't be done.
We got a reminder of what the Celtics look like with Shaq filling the middle, but it was just a short one - about five minutes long.
We also got a reminder on just how fragile and undependable Shaq is at this stage in his career. It's not his fault; he's trying. He's just, well, old.
One thing is pretty clear though; Shaq doesn't need time to "get reacquainted" with the team. Think about the fact that he hasn't stepped foot on the same court, in a game or practice, with the team in months. It didn't look to hold him back much.
He was active on the defensive end poking away balls and being a force down low, and scored six points in the limited minutes.
The Celtics are saying it's a right calf strain, so we have to take them at their word - as hard as it may be. To say that the C's haven't been exactly truthful with injuries in the past would be pretty accurate, and they've done a pretty good job of stringing us along for the ride with the Diesel.
You can't help but wonder if, even though it took this long, the Celtics brought Shaq back too soon. After all, he didn't even practice with the team first. He went from rehabbing, to game speed in a matter of one day, something you don't see often - especially with a player at that stage in his career.
So what does Doc do now? Sit him longer, maybe until the playoffs? Or bring him back sooner?
"I don't know what to do, honestly," Rivers said. "My inclination is not [to sit him longer], because we need - he needs to play. We have to play at full-tilt in six or seven - you know what I'm saying? But I don't know the answer to that."
That makes all of us. But if history is any indication, Shaq will be back later rather than sooner. At his size, the recovery time for lower body injuries take longer than for the average sized human being. Add his age in, and you're now talking about a return around the playoffs.
The Celtics can't win a championship if they don't have enough size down low. With Shaq in there, they have the size. Without him, they really need to dig deep.
The "Other" O'Neal
Shaq's return took the spotlight away from Jermaine O'Neal's first home game in an even longer time. But J.O. looked solid in his time out there, and will continue to progress slowly in hopes of becoming a bigger factor come the playoffs.
"Felt good, felt good to be back, it's just going to be about progression," J. O'Neal said. Today was probably the first day I felt sore coming to the game. Didn't even know I was going to start until the shoot around, but we got into the weight room, did some legs stuff."
J.O. did feel sore, but it wasn't the surgically repaired knee that felt sore, just his body in general. In fact, since the surgery, J.O. has much more confidence in his knee and doesn't expect to feel any discomfort in it from here out.
"I've never been concerned about the knee being sore and having set backs," J. O'Neal said. "It's more about the body being sore with the banging and stuff like that. But I've passed all the tests that I'm supposed pass leaving Chicago so I'm pretty excited about that."
Doc Rivers has said throughout the season that he needs one of the O'Neal brothers for the playoffs in order to have a chance. It looked like for a second he would have two, but with Shaq's new injury, that's up in the air. Still, J.O. looks to pick up the slack.
"We have to have - I kept saying - one of the O'Neal brothers is important," Rivers said. "And then Krstic is important. He has to be healthy. If we have that we do have size, but we have to have one - I'll take two - but we have to have one of the O'Neal brothers."
Green Not Mean Enough
One word to sum up Jeff Green's play since his arrival to the Celtics? Hesitant.
Any NBA fans know what Green is capable of, and chances are you've seen flashes of it from time to time during his time on the Celtics (the alley-oop jam last night). But from time to time isn't enough. That's definitely not why the C's traded for him.
Green is having a hard time fitting in on the court with his new teammates. It's not that he can't do it; it's just that perhaps he's walking on eggshells around his new future Hall of Fame teammates.
"You know, I think he's too nice," Rivers said of Green. "He's trying to please the other guys on the floor. I've always thought playing with us is difficult when you're new, because you're playing with Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen) and Kevin (Garnett) and (Rajon) Rondo and you almost don't think like you deserve to be an aggressive offensive player, or you should be. And I think he does that way too much.
"He had a couple today where he had clear drives and he still - you know, you see Ray and Paul there and, ‘I think I should throw it to them.' And we're trying to tell him we need him to be aggressive. He'll get it. He's getting better each game."
Green is the type of player who could, if used the right way, be the X-factor in the playoffs. There's a chance he joined the team too late to really contribute in the way he's capable of, but his ability to play the SF and PF positions on both the first and second units really give the Celtics options.
He doesn't seem to be on the same page with Rondo yet, and seems more comfortable with Delonte West, which makes sense in a way. The two were teammates in Seattle and grew up around the same area in Washington, DC.
While Rivers admits that Green may be shy on the offensive end, there's no reason for him to be shy on defense. Rivers is looking for him to be more active on the glass.
"One of the things he has to improve on is rebounding," Rivers said. "He had zero the other night; he had four tonight. He can be a better rebounder for us."