Rivers doesn't expect O'Neal back

March, 15, 2012
AP Photo/Nick WassHave we seen the last of Jermaine O'Neal in a Celtics uniform?
SAN FRANCISCO -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers expressed satisfaction in having his roster fully intact after Thursday's trade deadline passed without Boston making a move, but did note that he does not currently expect Jermaine O'Neal to be back with the team this season and said the Celtics remain in the market for a big man with eyes on the buyout market.

"I'm happy [the deadline is] done so we can just get on and keep playing," said Rivers. "So at least the talk part of it is gone. I hope nobody exhales and stops playing. Because we’ve been playing well...

"I like our group. Obviously, I’d like to add a big, and that’s still possible. I do like our group. Let’s see if we can get on a run here, and move up in the standings and see if we can get in the playoffs healthy, then let’s see what happens."

Rivers acknowledged that trade chatter might have weighed on his team a bit this season, though they hardly showed it while posting an 8-2 record in the 10 games since the All-Star break. Rivers said he felt it weighed on his guys more in past seasons.

As for O'Neal, Rivers shrugged when asked if there was clarity about his future. O'Neal has missed the last 11 games since aggravating a longstanding left wrist injury in Dallas before the All-Star break. O'Neal was taking some time to ponder his options, including a cortisone shot that might allow him to play out the rest of the year, or season-ending surgery.

"No, I don’t think he’ll be back, but nothing is clear," said Rivers. "It’s not been finalized, but I don’t see him playing."

Rivers noted he hasn't had a conversation with O'Neal recently, leading him to believe that he won't be back this year.

As for adding another big man, Rivers hinted the team won't make an immediate move to clear a spot, instead taking some time to examine what becomes available via buyouts around the league. The team will also wait to see how things play out with O'Neal before deciding whether they'll buy out Chris Wilcox, who will miss the remainder of the season as he preps for aortic surgery later this month.

"Right now there’s no reason to do anything, but if there’s a chance we can get another guy, then we’re going to have make a roster spot," said Rivers, who later added, "There probably will be some [buyout] guys [available]. The buyout follows the trade thing, so then you have to wait and see what you can get. Then we’ll know more."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com



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