Report Card: Jermaine O'Neal
June, 21, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Elsa/Getty ImagesJermaine O'Neal ices his chest -- one of numerous injuries he endured during his time with Boston.Over the three weeks leading up to start of the new league year on July 1, we'll take a player-by-player look at the Celtics' 2011-12 roster and how each player's season unfolded, assigning a grade for their overall performance. This is the ninth in the series of report cards:
Player: Jermaine O'Neal
2011-12 averages: 5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 22.8 mpg
2011-12 salary: $6.2 million
Season highlight: Oh sure, it might have been the return of a more beloved center (Kendrick Perkins), but O'Neal went off for 12 points and 11 rebounds in a mid-January loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. O'Neal did his damage, which included two steals and a block, over a mere 24 minutes. It was his only double-double of the season and only one of two in a Boston uniform (the other being a meaningless late-season game against Washington in April 2011).
Season lowlight: O'Neal aggravated a preexisting wrist injury -- one he elected to skip surgery on in the lockout-extended offseason last summer -- on Feb. 20 in Dallas, but it would be a full month before the team announced he would undergo season-ending surgery (and another month until he was outright released so the team could ink Sean Williams before the postseason). Right before the decision was made to pursue surgery, Rivers -- seemingly exasperated at the daily inquiries surrounding O'Neal's injury woes, particularly for a player that wasn't traveling with the team as he underwent physical therapy in hopes of playing again -- essentially said the team was moving on with the players that were available coming off the trade deadline. In a season in which the Celtics battled insane amounts of adversity, no one exactly stopped to lament the loss of O'Neal in late March.
Final grade: F+
Teacher's notes: We initially toyed with the idea of going with an incomplete. But, no, this was complete -- complete disaster. The Celtics gave up $12 million (two years at the full mid-level exception) for O'Neal to appear in 58 total games (less than a third of the total 177 games -- playoff and regular season -- that Boston played over the past two seasons). O'Neal showed glimpses of being able to help size-deprived Boston early in the 2011-12 campaign (hence the '+' in his grade; yes, we're a sucker for charge-takers), but his stats were still an eyesore. Consider this: O'Neal shot a mere 17.6 percent in post-up situations (3 for 17), ranking in the 2nd percentile, according to Synergy Sports data (this for a player that's 7-foot-1!). He pleaded with reporters to ignore the offensive stats and suggested that he deserved NBA All-Defensive consideration if he maintained his level of early season defensive play. Trouble there was -- masked by the charges and blocked shots -- was a player that owned a 103 defensive rating despite playing with Boston's defensive-minded starting 5 and allowed 0.85 points per play overall, ranking in the 49th percentile, according to Synergy Sports. Yes, O'Neal was solid as a post defender, but he was a liability against the pick-and-roll with his lack of mobility. What's more, his total rebound percentage was a mere 11.8 percent, down more than three percent from the previous season on a team desperate for rebounding.
What's next?: According to O'Neal's Twitter feed, he trekked to Germany recently to undergo the blood-spinning procedure that helped Kobe Bryant's arthritic knee. O'Neal suggested that procedure is the first step in working his way back to an NBA roster next fall. In a league desperate for size, he might just get another shot. Alas, it almost certainly won't come in Boston.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on O'Neal's 2011-12 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.