If the Boston Celtics were hoping to return to the NBA Finals this season, they'll have to do it without one of their big offseason acquisitions.
With injuries hampering Boston all season long, Doc River's team is going forward with the understanding that center Shaquille O'Neal will not be available during the NBA playoffs, according to The Eagle-Tribune (Mass.).
The Celtics made the call after O'Neal failed to sprint up and down the court during a "conditioning test" on Saturday before limping off the court.
Now, Rivers will turn to veteran Jermaine O'Neal, who also joined the team during the offseason and has battled knee problems since the beginning of the season, with Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic serving as his backups.
There was a sliver of hope in Boston that Shaq would be able to return during the Celtics' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Knicks or possibly in the conference semifinals, should they advance.
"If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery," a source told The Eagle-Tribune. "And at his age (he turned 39 on March 6) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly."
Shaq averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20 minutes a game, and his play was a major reason why the Celtics traded center Kendrick Perkins on Feb. 24 for Krstic and Jeff Green.
But the "Big Shamrock" injured his knee against the Knicks on Oct. 29 and began experiencing issues with his right calf and Achilles on Dec. 5 against the New Jersey Nets. He further aggravated the injury Feb. 1 against the Sacramento Kings and has played only five minutes since.
Though Shaq has another year left on his contract with the team, the newspaper's source also said that retirement is highly likely for the four-time NBA champion.