J.O. downplays hamstring, ready vs. N.J.


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Jermaine O'Neal sat out Monday's game with a sore hamstring.BOSTON -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal said he arrived at the TD Garden on Monday with every intention of suiting up against the Washington Wizards, but the training staff suggested he sit out because of lingering soreness in his left hamstring and he ultimately erred on the side of caution on the second night of a back-to-back.

O'Neal did not dress for Monday's game and was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Greg Stiemsma as Boston capped a two-game sweep of the Wizards with a 100-92 triumph.

"It’s not an injury. I got here with intentions of playing and [team trainer] Ed Lacerte went through the regular routine of my pregame [workout] and I was still sore," O'Neal said. "He preferred for me not to play. I came to the arena with thoughts and intentions that I was playing, but he had a conversation with [coach] Doc [Rivers] and sometimes players get trumped.

"It’s not a hamstring pull or anything like that. In fact, I’ll be ready to go come Wednesday."

O'Neal later called Lacerte one of the "best athletic trainers in the business" and stressed that the team made the decision based almost exclusively on the schedule.

"That’s exactly what it was. We're playing every other day for the next week and a half," O'Neal said. "I wanted to fight it, but I couldn’t fight it. [The training staff] said, 'Just wait, get ready for Wednesday’s game.'"

O'Neal's hamstring tightened up late in the third quarter of Sunday's win in D.C. After missing 58 games last season, O'Neal said in training camp that he wanted to play in upward of 90 percent of Boston's games. So being sidelined just five games in likely didn't sit well with O'Neal, but Rivers stressed after the game he remains the team's starting center (even as Stiemsma put together a solid effort while running with the first unit).

Rivers said before Monday's game, "[The hamstring is] not bad. Eddie just came to me and suggested that he didn’t play -- he didn’t say, ‘No, he can’t play,’ he suggested it. With the hamstring, you just don’t want to take any chances. JO’s been doing so well, we figure with tonight, [an offday] tomorrow, and then maybe he can play the next game."