BOSTON -- For some veteran players, a condensed season means conserving minutes and limiting time on the court to preserve energy for the next game.
Jermaine ONeal wants the opposite of that.
On Friday night, ONeal played nearly 29 minutes in the Celtics' win against the Detroit Pistons. He scored a team-high 19 points (7-for-9 FG) and grabbed seven rebounds. It was his highest point total since last April in which he scored 15 points in 36 minutes.
ONeal, who had not played more than 22 minutes the first three games of the season, was able to find his rhythm -- and the basket.
I was able to be effective by playing extended minutes, he said after the Celtics' 96-85 victory. I think when you can get a rhythm, you can get a flow, you can get comfortable with what the team is doing.
You look at the first couple of games, I was in and out of there so fast, it was almost impossible to get any flow to the game. But more than anything, concentrating on the task and thats setting screens, rolling to the basket, try to get to the open spot, and this team is about a team. Its about finding the open guy and helping the next guy get his shot. Tonight it just was falling for me.
Coach Doc Rivers was complimentary of the big mans performance after the game.
He was terrific, said Rivers. He gave us a great lift, played with great energy. He made shots, but the offensive part, to me, came from doing his job, really. I told him that. I thought he was really focused on setting picks and rebounding and doing all the little things.
Its funny, we just talked about this as a group and I said, Guys who do that, its amazing how you get rewarded somehow. And thats what happened, to me. He kept setting picks on Ray Allen. And listen, JOs no dummy. If you set a pick on Ray, everyones jumping to Ray and he kept slipping it. He sought it early in the game, and thats brilliant. He did his job by getting Ray open and he benefited from it, and we benefited from it.
Allen, who scored 17 points, appreciated his teammates efforts.
He was huge, Allen said of ONeal. He showed his length, his presence, he rotated over, he made guys miss around the basket. Even if he wasnt in position, he gradually saw them coming and he gave us great position deep in the paint. And he made his shots. He played a great game for us.
On paper, Friday night was ONeals best game since joining the Celtics last season. He agrees with that assessment on the offensive end, but points that he judges his overall performance on more than just scoring baskets. He looks to continue staying out of foul trouble early and helping the team on the defensive end.
Im not going to let the offensive end dictate, and I know people are always going to judge that part of me how I helped the team based off that, he said. air or not, thats just how people are. But defensively and rebounding is where Im going to judge myself and thats my role.
Ive heard people ask me, Why would you accept that role? Because thats what you do on a championship-caliber team. You accept your role and you get into that position and you own that position. Thats what I want to do.