Shaquille O'Neal is doubtful for tonight's Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, a must-win for the Celtics, who trail the Heat 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. And considering he only played a little more than three minutes in Game 4 because of his nagging Achilles injury that has basically kept him sidelined since late January, that "doubtful" is probably a bit optimistic.
Head coach Doc Rivers has already said the only reason Shaq didn't play more in Game 4 was because of health -- "It was physical." -- which probably means he won't be able to go should the Celtics force a Game 5 (or Game 6 ... or Game 7). So: has Shaq, who is 39 years old with a player option for 2011-12, played his last game? Not just his last game with the Celtics, but his final game in the NBA?
On that, Doc's not ready to speculate just yet, but he didn't exactly paint a rosy picture.
"It's nothing he can do. It's not like he's not trying," Rivers said. "He's done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn't been able to do it. When he originally got injured no one thought it was that serious. It just never healed and it still hasn't, and now every time he plays it gets worse."