Boston Celtics: Jermaine O'Neal

Grantland: Resurrection of Jermaine O'Neal

April, 30, 2014
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Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesJermaine O'Neal has rejuvenated his career with Golden State.
Doc Rivers alternated between big compliments and little jabs about Jermaine O’Neal. Just moments before Game 2 of the Los Angeles Clippers–Golden State Warriors first-round matchup, Rivers considered recent Boston history.

“I don’t know if you remember the series the year before we signed J.O. -- he was with Miami and we played them in the playoffs,” Rivers said. “He went oh-fer in the series. Literally, I don’t think he made a basket. He was struggling with his knees when we got him. [Initially] he wanted to do what we asked him to do, [but] then toward the end, he wanted to score more, obviously. That’s human nature. Then I guess he went to Germany with Kobe, and [now] he’s feeling a lot better.

“He’s been amazing [with the Warriors]. He’s played great,” Rivers continued. “I thought he was probably one of the, if not the, most important players in Game 1.”

Only a short while later, O’Neal and Rivers received technical fouls for arguing with one another in the second quarter. “This league is about trying to smell where the weakness is,” O’Neal said. “I don’t care if it’s the scorekeeper. There’s going to be scenarios where you’re trying to find an edge and you’re trying to get yourself going. Yes, I played for [Doc] and I know him personally. But it’s just one of those things where he was intense and I was intense and things were said. You move on.”

They no longer bothered moving the ice machine. Jermaine O’Neal always needed it. It was anchored in the middle of his living room, beside the couch, like another piece of furniture. O’Neal sat solemnly, sullenly, for hours, with his leg propped up on the machine. He had been an NBA player nearly half of his life, from teen prodigy to team star, a pillar of the community and an infamous league villain. He had arrived in Boston four years earlier to provide interior presence and restore the Celtics to their recent glory. Instead, his career had appeared to end ingloriously, with a whimper, under the low hum of that machine. O’Neal always seemed to be between surgeries, the trainer’s table, and doctor consultations. Maybe it was time to call it a career.

“Those two years [in Boston] were very difficult for me, because not only did I feel like I was wearing down physically, I was wearing down mentally,” O’Neal said. “That was the first time in my life I felt myself starting to break away a little bit.”

[Read full story]

Taking offense: O'Neal misguided on role

July, 18, 2012
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AP Photo/Nick WassJermaine O'Neal delivers a two-handed jam for the Celtics.
Former Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who earned $12 million while appearing in a mere 49 games over two injury-decimated seasons, voiced displeasure with his offensive role in Boston after working out for the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

O'Neal heaped praise on the city of Boston, its rabid sports fans, and the Celtics organization as a whole, but made it clear he thought he wasn't properly utilized on the offensive end, suggesting that contributed to his inability to thrive here.

From the Boston Globe:
"The hardest thing for me was to not be able to do some of the things I have been quite comfortable with doing all my life. I accepted the challenge. I accepted the role. (I didn’t want) 10 shots a game, but it was hard to be told not to worry about (scoring)...

“When I was asked about (offense), I tried to be as professional about it as possible but it’s hard. You put any player in that position and ask them how that’s going to pan out for them; it’s hard mentally because you’re fighting against yourself every single day. And it’s not like you’re getting the reps, even in practice, because they’re gonna stay away from that in practice because they don’t want you to start leaning towards that in games. It was really rough. The things that kept me going was the guys on that team, (team president of basketball operations) Danny Ainge and just the passion of that city. No one wants it to end the way it ended, but it did. I was never really healthy mentally.

“It took everything in my mind, body and soul to be professional about it. When that’s said to you in front of a team, it bothers you...

“Listen, I don’t want to confuse anybody doing this interview. I’m not saying by any means I can go for 18, 20 a night. But I know I’m still good enough to go for 20 on any given night, if given the opportunity. I wasn’t given the opportunity to post up at all. Not even in practice."

O'Neal, who trekked to Germany this summer to undergo the blood-spinning therapy on his knees made famous by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez, clearly is bit delusional about what went wrong in Boston.

His own inability to stay on the court affected his offensive contributions far more than his offensive role . Yes, the Celtics asked him to be a fifth option behind the Big Four, but that never prevented others from making a tangible impact from the center position.

The fact that O'Neal is lamenting his offensive role is somewhat laughable.

Consider this: In two seasons in Boston, O'Neal averaged 0.822 points per play overall, never ranking higher than the 29th percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. He generated only 46 total post-up opportunities during 49 games, but converted a mere 12 of 39 shots (30.8 percent), which included missing 14 of the 17 post-up shots he generated during the 2011-12 season.

Not exactly making a strong case to throw it to you in the post, J.O.

(Read full post)

It's been a quiet Tuesday while we wait for the late-night tipoff for the Celtics' second summer league tilt in Las Vegas. A few quick notes:

Jim O'Connor/US PresswireGreg Stiemsma ready to attempt a block against the Nets.
* ESPN Radio 1500 in Minneapolis reported that the Timberwolves still believe they can land restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma this offseason. The Celtics have a $1.05 million qualifying offer to Stiemsma, but outside of the biannual exception ($1.975 million), do not have the resources to match even a modest outside offer (from Minnesota or otherwise). The Wolves have left Stiemsma in a bit of a holding pattern the past two weeks while they figure out their own cap situation with other free-agent bids. Stiemsma's camp probably is hoping others will jump into the fray as the free-agent pool dries up this summer. Boston, which has made great strides to beef up its frontcourt, probably wouldn't mind if no other team puts in a bid and Stiemsma elects to take the qualifying offer. Regardless, this situation is probably going to take more time to play itself out.

* Jermaine O'Neal worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas on Tuesday and then said that Boston "wasn't a good fit for him," according to HoopsWorld. After the Celtics paid $12 million for 49 games of O'Neal's services, that comment is unlikely to resonate well in these parts. Go ahead and sound off with your thoughts in the comments.

* One thing to put on your calendar: The NBA regular-season schedule is set to be released next Thursday.

Report Card: Jermaine O'Neal

June, 21, 2012
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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

SportsNation

What's your grade for Jermaine O'Neal?

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    8%
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    22%
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    67%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,712)

Season in a paragraph: The Celtics nearly found a way to deal O'Neal for David West in the preseason, only to watch West instead sign with the Indiana Pacers. O'Neal brushed off the rumors and was promptly anointed the "training camp MVP" by a smitten coach Doc Rivers. The honeymoon-after-the-near-divorce didn't last long as O'Neal made it just five games before a sore hamstring forced him to sit out his first game of the season (not a good sign for a player that had set a goal to play upwards of 90 percent of Boston's total games). O'Neal showed encouraging signs early in the campaign, taking charges in bulk and showcasing that familiar shot-blocking abilities. Alas, his body failed him again. His shoulder, knee, and chest would all act up before O'Neal aggravated a left wrist ailment taking a charge in Dallas before the All-Star break and that injury ultimately ended his season.

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.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports:
The Boston Celtics, seeking some added depth for their frontcourt, are closing in on the signing of free-agent center Sean Williams, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.

Sources told ESPN.com that the former Boston College center, waived by the Dallas Mavericks in March, is scheduled to join the Celtics in Atlanta and will be in uniform for Boston's game Friday night against the Hawks.

To make roster room for Williams, Boston is waiving the injured Jermaine O'Neal, sources said.

Hop HERE to read the full story.

O'Neal to undergo season-ending surgery

March, 19, 2012
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJermaine O'Neal will miss the remainder of the 2011-12 season as he preps for left wrist surgery.
Boston Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal will undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing left wrist, ending his time with the team -- and maybe his career -- after two injury-plagued seasons in Boston.

The Celtics announced Monday night that O'Neal has a chronic degenerative wrist condition that was exacerbated by a fall during a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 20. The wrist has not responded to immobilization and physical therapy, and the decision was made to proceed with surgery.

Inked for two years at the mid-level exception during the summer of 2010, O'Neal was limited to 49 appearances and 1,001 minutes of floor time. He averaged 5.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

But his time in Boston will be remembered for his inability to stay on the floor, as he missed 58 games in 2010-11 because of right knee issues that required in-season surgery. This season, the knee flared again at times, but it was the lingering left wrist issue that ultimately ended his campaign after 25 appearances.

"Jermaine worked hard to get himself in condition to play this season despite his ongoing wrist issues," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. "He played through pain the entire year and gave us all he could, but unfortunately after the fall against Dallas there simply wasn't anything else he could do. We appreciate his contributions to our team over the last two years."

Hop HERE to read the full story.

Doc talks Johnson, O'Neal

March, 16, 2012
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Two bits of news regarding the Celtics and the search for another big man:

* Rivers confirmed that the Celtics have interest in recently released Chris Johnson, who had two cups of coffee with the team last season (one in training camp; another on a 10-day contract in February) before being signed by the Blazers. "We thought about just signing him for [Saturday's game] because he had that sensational game there last year in Denver," Rivers joked about Johnson's rushed debut with Boston on the heels of the Kendrick Perkins trade. "We were just going to sign him and say, ‘Run like a gazelle again.’ No, we are [interested]. We’re looking at everybody. Chris is an absolute option, no doubt."

* Rivers also kept the door open just a crack that Jermaine O'Neal, sidelined for the past 11 games due to a let wrist ailment, could return to the team, but said he's letting O'Neal, his agent, and Danny Ainge sort everything out back home. As for his outlook on the situation: "If he comes back, he comes back; If he doesn’t, we’ve been pretty good."

O'Neal swats away rumors with Tweet?

March, 16, 2012
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Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal took to Twitter early Friday morning to seemingly refute rumors that emerged Thursday suggesting that he was seeking a buyout from Boston (with the goal of signing back in Miami). It was his first Tweet since Sept. 7 from his verified account:

https://twitter.com/#!/jermaineoneal/status/180542526145564672

Added O'Neal in Tweets that followed: "I see I'm going to have to start back tweeting more because It looks like people know more about me than I know about myself!" ... "But I can tell yall that I do really miss playing and some of yall are crazy as hell on twitter lol! But its all love tho!" ... "But I will be seeing the doctor again in the next couple of days to determine where my wrist is at this point." ... "So the next statement about "me" publicly will come from 'me'! Good night yall!"

O'Neal ponders wrist options

March, 2, 2012
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AP Photo/Nick WassCeltics center Jermaine O'Neal is pondering options on his injured left wrist.
BOSTON -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal remains out of action while pondering his options regarding an ailing left wrist, according to coach Doc Rivers.

O'Neal, who visited a hand specialist earlier this week after aggravating the wrist injury before the All-Star break, is pondering options that will impact whether he's able to get back on the floor this season.

"I just think he’s thinking through his options," said Rivers. "He’s going to have to have surgery, it looks like, at some point. We gotta figure out if he can get through [the season] or not. We’re just going to wait and see what he decides... I think he’s probably still going to look at a couple more doctors, just to get other opinions."

Rivers waited a beat before quipping, "I won't be one of them."

O'Neal originally injured his left wrist while taking a charge in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors at the start of the 2010 season. He aggravated it in the postseason against the New York Knicks last year, but elected to not pursue offseason surgery, feeling it might jeopardize his ability to get back on the court this season. O'Neal also appeared to tweak the injury earlier this season, but the latest aggravation seems to have forced the issue of surgery.

O'Neal could elect to get a cortisone shot and see if that alleviates the pain enough to grind through the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign. Or he can go under the knife, but there's no guarantee he'd be able to get back in time to help this team again.

"You can play with [the injury], it’s been done," said Rivers. "You can also have surgery on it. He’s just going to have to make a decision, whether [the cortisone shot] works or not, there’s going to be pain involved."

Pressed on O'Neal's options, Rivers joked again, "You guys really think I'm a doctor? This is getting crazy today."

O'Neal reflects on Malice at the Palace

February, 29, 2012
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Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesJermaine O'Neal is restrained during the Malice at the Palace.
Grantland offers a fascinating oral history of The Malice at the Palace, which includes some reflection from Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal on his role in the incident, including his decision to move on from the team:
I felt like if I didn't leave — and it was one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make — then that organization would never be free of it. I've lived in that environment [in Indiana] where you can walk into a restaurant and there's so much love there that you get ready to pay your bill and your bill is paid already. Or anywhere you go, there's just so much love. I've seen that part. Those people, it's one of those hardworking small towns where people go to work every day and then they come home and turn their TVs on and watch those games because those games are a part of their lives. And they kind of live through that with all the tough times that they are going through. Indiana is one of the hardest-hit unemployment states in America. So, these people are going through a lot, and having to deal with that type of stuff is hard. It was a very unhappy situation, I could tell, for everybody — we needed to start over. I didn't want to [leave] because I always wanted to finish my career there. That's why I'm extremely proud of what they're doing this year, because now the fans have something to be happy about again.

Hop HERE to read the full story.

O'Neal to see hand specialist in Boston

February, 27, 2012
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AP Photo/Charles KrupaCeltics center Jermaine O'Neal is dealing with a left wrist issue.
Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who aggravated a left wrist injury last Monday in Dallas, remained in Boston on Monday while the rest of his teammates trekked to Cleveland in advance of opening the second half of the 2011-12 season Tuesday night against the Cavaliers.

O'Neal is expected to meet with team physical Dr. Brian McKeon and a hand specialist on Tuesday, according to the team.

O'Neal originally injured the left wrist while taking a charge in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors at the start of the 2010 season. He aggravated it in the postseason against the New York Knicks last year, but elected to not pursue offseason surgery, feeling it might jeopardize his ability to get back on the court this season. O'Neal also appeared to tweak the injury earlier this season, but the aggravation last Monday night was enough to prevent him from playing in the pre-All-Star finale in Oklahoma City.

Now, in seeking the advice of a specialist, it would appear that O'Neal is seeking a way to stay on the floor and avoid the sort of surgery he feared this offseason (at the time, it was suggested he would need four months to recover).

O'Neal has missed nine games this season due to knee, shoulder, and wrist ailments. Last season, he sought multiple opinions on a chronic left knee injury before electing to take time to strengthen the area around the injury. When that showed no immediate improvements, O'Neal ultimately elected for surgery, missing 58 regular-season games, but returned in time for the postseason.

Given the schedule in this condensed season and the team's lack of true size at the center position, the team doesn't have those same luxuries to afford O'Neal this season. The injury is to his non-shooting hand, so that could aid him in trying to stay on the floor, but O'Neal has absorbed a lot of punishment by giving up his body for charges throughout the year.

In positive injury news for Boston, both Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox were with the team for Monday's practice and the expectation is they should be available on Tuesday. Wilcox departed Monday's game against the Mavericks with a right adductor strain and sat out the pre-All-Star finale against the Thunder, while Bass has missed the last six games due to left knee inflammation. One of the two players would seemingly be in line to take O'Neal's spot in the starting lineup against Cleveland.

O'Neal (wrist) departs vs. Mavericks

February, 20, 2012
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TNT ScreenshotJermaine O'Neal aggravated a left wrist injury while taking a first-half charge in Dallas.
Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal appeared to aggravate a longstanding left wrist injury while absorbing a charge late in the first half of Monday's game against the Dallas Mavericks and later departed the game.

O'Neal winched in pain after slamming hard to the ground after giving up his body on a drive by Dallas' Dominique Jones. Teammates tried to help O'Neal off the floor, but he quickly pulled his left hand back to prevent putting strain on that area as he got pulled to his feet.

O'Neal stayed in the game into the third quarter, but departed early in the frame. The team announced that he had a sprained left wrist and would not return.

O'Neal originally injured his left wrist while taking a charge in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors at the start of the 2010 season. He aggravated it in the postseason against the New York Knicks last season, but elected to not pursue offseason surgery, feeling it might jeopardize his ability to get back on the court this season. O'Neal also appeared to tweak the injury earlier this season, but the aggravation Monday night was enough to prevent him from returning to the game.

J.O.'s goal: All-Defensive team

February, 7, 2012
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/GettyJermaine O'Neal wouldn't mind some defensive recognition.
BOSTON -- Following Sunday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal flipped the script on reporters and asked us a question about his performance this season.

"At the end fo the year, if I’m up [at the top with the league's leaders] in charges and I'm still blocking shots, can I at least for one time in my life make the All-Defensive team?" asked O'Neal. "There are no bigs taking charges, no bigs doing that. It’s all guards. When I looked at the [leaders] list, it was dominated by guards and wing guys. But this is about giving all of me out there. I deal with the consequences when I get home, or on days when we have practices. But if there are charges -- and a lot of it is on wing guys or perimeter guys -- and I can pick up a foul against them, get us one step closer to the bonus. I’m going to do it. I just gotta deal with the consequences later."

The consequences are injuries like a bone bruise on his left knee or an ailing left wrist, lingering pains from charges taken over the past two seasons. There's no spot in the box score for enduring the bumps and bruises that come with doing the gritty work, but O'Neal is fine with that.

But for a player who prides himself on what he does at the defensive end, especially as his scoring output has declined later in this career, O'Neal wouldn't mind a little recognition for his defensive prowess.

And why not? O'Neal is third in the league in total charges drawn (19) behind only Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins and Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (21 apiece, though both have played more minutes and more games). Only Minnesota's Jose Juan Barea (1.33) is ahead of O'Neal (1) in charges per game. What's more, O'Neal is averaging 1.4 blocks per game this season.

"It’s crazy. I’ve said it a couple times: I just have not seen anything really like that," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of O'Neal's ability to block shots and take charges. "There’s not a lot of guys that block shots and take charges. And he gets there. I don’t know how he gets there; but he gets there. Every time he’s there. It’s just amazing, his timing...

"Jermaine, like I said, he’s such an anchor for us. And people read his numbers, but it’s what he does for our team. It really is. I mean, it’s very similar to the [Kendrick Perkins]. If you read Perk’s numbers with us you would say, ‘Well, he’s not productive at times.’ [O'Neal is] extremely productive and we need him.”


BOSTON -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal said he underwent an MRI Saturday in fear of a possible meniscus tear, but breathed a sigh of relief when tests revealed merely a bone bruise.

O'Neal played in Sunday's win over the Grizzlies, chipping in four points, seven rebounds, and two blocked shots over 25 minutes, 20 seconds of action.

"[The MRI] actually turned out pretty good," said O'Neal. "I still have a bone bruise, [but] I was pretty pleased with that because we were little nervous it was [a meniscus tear]. I told you guys, we’re never going to be healthy. Things are going to come up and you just have to come out and give what you can give. That’s what I try to do."

O'Neal, who missed 58 games and required left knee surgery last season, missed three games last month while dealing with a bone bruise on his left knee after absorbing a charge from Orlando's Hedu Turkoglu. That injury has actually healed, he said, but now he's dealing with the right knee bruise that occurred Friday while simply running down the court in the second half against the Knicks.

"I stopped and my leg slipped, so my knee buckled a little bit, so I had a little bit of a pinch," said O'Neal. "So that was something that was a little bit of a concern because I woke up the next day -- actually, it was starting to swell a little bit after the game -- but then the next day it was really painful. So they wanted to get a picture of it and the biggest thing for me is not being a meniscus tear. That was kinda the doomsday thing for me. When I got the call that it was a bone bruise, it was like, ‘I can play through that.’ A meniscus tear, those are tough to play through."

O'Neal actually returned the locker room during the second half of Sunday's game against the Grizzlies, but laughed while noting it was simply because he suffered a cut and had bled on his uniform, forcing him to change his gear before he could return to the floor.

That, of course, is the least of his injury woes.

"I’m around-the-clock therapy," he said. "I think the owners and training staff will let me borrow all their stem machines and boots to get the swelling down. That’s how the season is. Guys are getting therapy around the clock, just to play. The games -- it seems like as soon as you lie down, it’s time to play again. So, it’s about getting legs fresh, getting therapy in. And I’ll be fine. I'll take [the bone bruise] the same way I took the left knee."

O'Neal (right knee) undergoes MRI

February, 4, 2012
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Elsa/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo helps pick up Jermaine O'Neal.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal missed practice Saturday to undergo a right-knee MRI and is a game-time decision for Sunday's matinee versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Coach Doc Rivers initially suggested that the MRI was on O'Neal's left knee and was a regularly scheduled visit to monitor the chronic injury (he also suffered a bone bruise on his left knee cap last month in the first meeting with Orlando). The team later clarified it was the right knee.

Results were not immediately available and the team will determine his game status after a closed walkthrough on the TD Garden floor on Sunday morning.

O'Neal played 19 minutes, 37 seconds in Friday's win over the New York Knicks, but only 12 seconds in the fourth quarter. Rivers admitted O'Neal looked a little slow out of the gates, but suggested he would have been able to return.

"Early on, you could see, I thought he was moving slow," said Rivers. "But he was ready to come in at the end of the game. He did well for us [in the second half]. He does his job. His productivity, if you go by the numbers, you’ll be fooled a little bit -- he does a pretty good job for us."

Top reserve big man Brandon Bass worked with the first unit Saturday with Kevin Garnett shuffling to the center spot. Bass is the likely candidate to start if O'Neal cannot go.

O'Neal sat out three games last month after suffering the bone bruise in absorbing a charge by Hedu Turkoglu in the first meeting with Orlando. He had previously sat out a game in early January due to general soreness.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Rajon Rondo participated in the light 45-minute session and reported no abnormal soreness with his right wrist in returning to the court Friday after missing the previous eight games. He was sporting a grisly shiner below his right eye, but said any of his struggles Friday were in no way related to the eye (which simply needed to be iced during the game to relieve puffiness after catching a stray hand from New York's Iman Shumpert).

Keyon Dooling (right hip-pointer) participated in a second-unit walkthrough at the end of the session and Rivers suggested he's getting closer to a return. Marquis Daniels (mild right ankle sprain) did not engage in any activity, which would make him doubtful for Sunday's game.

"Keyon is close, but he just can’t breakthrough," said Rivers. "We thought he’d be back a couple games ago and he did some stuff and got sore again, so we just don’t know."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9