Thursday, November 11, 2010
Jermaine O'Neal seeks second opinion
By Chris Forsberg
MIAMI -- It should have been an opportunity to compete against a team that let him walk away this offseason as it embarked on the most prolific shopping spree in the history of NBA free agency. Instead, Jermaine O'Neal's first trip back to South Beach turned into nothing more than a convenient doctor's visit.
After declaring himself out of Thursday's Boston Celtics-Miami Heat blockbuster due to lingering left knee soreness, O'Neal told ESPNBoston.com that he will seek a second opinion Friday from the doctors who provided his care during his time with the Heat.
O'Neal is uncertain whether he will travel with the team to Memphis on Friday afternoon but is almost certain not to play regardless. His plan is to stay in Miami long enough to get a firm diagnosis and begin the recovery process.
"I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what the [Miami doctors'] opinions are, so that I can move forward," said O'Neal, before sitting on the sideline in jeans and a baby-blue blazer as his Celtics topped the Heat 112-107 at the American Airlines Arena. "You can't really move forward until you know what you're dealing with because you're in that box. I'm tired of talking about it. I know my teammates are tired of hearing about it. So i just want to keep moving forward."
While praising the Boston medical staff, O'Neal said he wants to seek the advice of those who provided his care in the past, hoping to figure out why his knee has flared up on multiple occasions this season.
"I'm going to get a second opinion, just a thing that a player should do," said O'Neal. "Obviously, I believe in our staff a lot, I support our doctors and we have some of the best doctors in the world. But i just want to get a different opinion. See if everybody's on the same page. This is the third time it's blown up on me, so I have to do something.
"Obviously, I'm new to the team. I know our doctors have checked over my records, but being [in Miami] for two years, they dealt with it and I didn't have any issues when I was here. [The knee] was strong, so I'm just kinda getting their opinion, then putting it with our doctors and getting them together for a conclusion on why the knee is blowing up the way it's blowing up."
O'Neal, who sat out the second half of Monday's loss in Dallas, experienced no improvement in the swollen knee despite two off days before Thursday's tilt in Miami. He participated minimally in Boston's shootaround Thursday morning and suggested he'd likely sit out the remainder of Boston's four-game road trip with an eye toward recovery (aided by a three-day break before Boston's next home game Wednesday against the Wizards).
O'Neal said Boston team doctors have taken MRIs of his injury and have identified potential ailments, but he has been cryptic in revealing their diagnosis and the means of treating the knee thus far, suggesting only that he's had a "procedure" aimed at relieving the injury.
One of those concerns appears to be knee arthritis, a degenerative condition any NBA player is subject to from the wear-and-tear of the sport. But O'Neal also underwent surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee in April 2007 and missed 42 games the following season due to pain and swelling, making him somewhat more susceptible to the condition.
"This is the most swelling I've had since I tore my meniscus three or four years ago," O'Neal admitted. "I know the length of time it took to get back from [the meniscus] -- it took a while."
He's hoping to get a diagnosis of a more treatable ailment because it's virtually impossible to cure arthritis, short of a complete knee replacement. Also known as osteoarthritis, knee arthritis occurs when cartilage is worn away, leaving the bare bone exposed to the joint. Symptoms can come and go, but include stiffness in the knee and swelling of the joint, which appears to be consistent with what O'Neal is battling.
While he's mentioned arthritis only in the context of injuries that veteran players can encounter, O'Neal addressed that potential when asked about it before Thursday's game.
"I'm sure every player in [the Celtics' locker room] has that, I'm positive," said O'Neal. "I know that, if it is [arthritis], we have to figure out how to slow that down. I've never had a real issue unless it was injury -- the meniscus or whatever else might have made it swell. I'd almost rather have it be something fixable than something that's not."
The 32-year-old O'Neal has been in the league for 14 years and has 869 regular-season games and 24,574 regular-season minutes gnawing at the tread on his tires.
While discussing the injury at Thursday's shootaround, O'Neal disclosed the MRIs and hinted at arthritis as a possible diagnosis.
"We've taken pictures of it and we'll probably take some more, to be honest," said O'Neal. "We found a couple things. One thing that probably everybody has that has been playing for a couple years. It could be the reason why knee is swelling."
Pressed on what that might be, he said, "I can't tell you ... but hopefully it's not the case. But if it is, then we gotta think long-term."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.