Celtics cope with mental challenges while injured

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Celtics cope with mental challenges while injured

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

This season, members of the Boston Celtics have missed over 120 games due to injury.

For every day they battle through a strain, a tear or broken bone, they endure another type of pain -- one that cannot be healed with a cast, a brace, or bucket of ice.

The mental challenges of coming back from of an injury can be more grueling than the physical suffering.

Thats something that you really cant explain because people hear about injuries like there is no rehab, or people hear rehab and they think that its easy, Jermaine ONeal told CSNNE.com. Theres the physical aspect of it, but more than anything, its mental.

ONeal, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West are currently sidelined for the Cs. They have faced different struggles during their injuries, but in the end, they are all fighting for the same goal - to get healthy and help the Celtics win.

They shared how they cope with the mental challenges of injuries with CSNNE.com.

ONeal: Youre not just living it -- everybody around you is living it.

Jermaine ONeals life has been in limbo while he contemplates surgery on a sore left knee that has sidelined him for 23 games this season. ONeal planned to make a decision on Tuesday, but weather conditions delayed discussions with the Celtics organization.

So he waits. And as he does, he thinks about how this lingering injury could affect his team, his career, and most importantly to him, his family.

Long term Im not scared because of me personally, but its more because of my children (Jermaine, 4, and Asjia, 11), ONeal told CSNNE.com. My daughter is in the fundamental league at her school. She asked me to take her to the gym twice last week, and I couldnt. Thats hard. Her daddy is supposed to be Super Man.

I didnt even know until last Friday, my wife told me that my daughter was concerned. She was asking, Are they going to have to open Daddys knee? Those are things where youre not just living it -- everybody around you is living it.

ONeal considers his family to be his biggest source of strength, and he receives more support when he leaves his home, too. While he has been frustrated that his injury has prevented him from contributing more to the Celtics this season, it helps him to know that his teammates are standing behind him.

The type of guys that we have on this team, they pull you back in, he said. Some guys knew that I might have to have surgery and I got an e-mail from Marquis Daniels. He was like, Brother, just keep the faith. He said he was going to say a prayer for me.

All that makes a difference. That makes you be like, Lets kept fighting, because some times youre bent. Youre bent. Its funny because me and Kevin Garnett, in the last week or so, weve been talking about just where were at and how hard it is to do it every day.

ONeal isnt looking for sympathy. Rather, he is going through a situation thats bigger than any stat line he has ever posted.

Its just a whole different aspect of life that the average fan doesnt really know, he said. Im sure if they go through injuries they understand it, but when they look at basketball, they think its a game and they think its a large paycheck. So they think that these guys should be invincible. But Im a person and youve got to live it, and its very difficult to live it sometimes.

West: Ive been knocked down my whole life and I keep getting back up.

Delonte West believes he was born with it. He cant pinpoint where he got his strong will from, but he knows he has had it his entire life.

Thats because nothing was ever handed to him. West says he had to fight his way to the NBA, and once he was there, fight to stay in it.

So when he broke his right (non-shooting) wrist in late November, he looked at what many could view as a devastating injury as just another obstacle he had to hurdle.

Ive been knocked down my whole life and I keep getting back up, West told CSNNE.com. Nobody can really teach it (how to be a fighter), youve just got to have it. Its something thats been embedded in my blood, in my genes. Ive just always had that will, Im going to make it. Im going to set a goal and Im going to accomplish it.

In spite of his drive to get back on the court, it can be difficult to watch the Celtics from the sidelines. West had played in just five games after returning from a 10-game suspension before he broke his wrist.

Its tough when your team is playing well, he admits. Theyve been involved in big games and big finishes, and even though youre a part of it, you want to be out there being a part of it. Not necessarily playing every minute on the floor, but being able to contribute. Theres nothing like being in the trenches with your guys.

West doesnt have many bad days any more as he eyes a return in February. But when he does, he calls his mother for advice. He has learned to worry about the things he can control, and he lets the rest roll off his shoulders.

Im a true underdog story, but I embrace it, he said. It is what it is. Nothing was given to me and I dont expect anything now. Seven years in the league, it still feels like Ive got to prove myself every moment. Thats why I get that reckless abandonment when I play sometimes. Its not bad as it was as a younger player, but its still there. I still have that fight. Ive only got one life to live -- make the best of it.

Perkins: Im not going through this leg injury again.

After tearing ligaments in his right knee during Game Six of the NBA Finals, Kendrick Perkins told himself that he would return better than he was the last time he played.

But with that ambition had to come patience during a long rehabilitation process.

You catch yourself because you figure you dont want to go through this stuff again, he told CSNNE.com. Its kind of like, you either be smart or be dumb about it. Ill just always be like, Im not going through this leg injury again. The first two months were hell for me as far as the rehab and trying to walk on crutches. Any time youve got to walk on crutches, its not a good look.

It wasnt always easy, but Perkins found the balance of both pushing his body and giving it ample time off. While he would work out when he needed motivation, he always stayed conscious of how much rest he required as well.

The combination of patience and determination played a major role in Perkins rehab. He began practicing with the team and projects to play his first game of the season on February 4 at the TD Garden.

Doc Rivers joked that the Celtics had their loudest practice of the season once Perkins returned, and he was happy to see his players communicating so actively with one another.

That communication with his teammates has helped Perkins when hes needed a pick-me-up.

Ill call Rajon Rondo, Ill call KG, he said. But they dont know Im feeling down. Sometimes you just want to hear their voice and talk to them maybe about basketball, something to that nature. Thats kind of how I usually deal with it. It feels good after.

With his return expected just a few weeks away, Perkins doesnt like to think too often about the challenging months he endured. Instead, he focuses on the road ahead thanks in part to the encouragement from the team.

Mentally there havent been too many down days, I think just because of how the guys treat you, how everybody around the Celtics treats you, Perkins said. They always make you feel wanted. Obviously you want to be out there and you want to play, but it isnt really bad.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.