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

It was still a banner year for Celtics, according to Bleacher Report tweet

It was still a banner year for Celtics, according to Bleacher Report tweet


Minutes after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, the folks at Bleacher Report tweeted a video that celebrated the C’s one victory in the series. 

Ouch. 

There are 17 Celtics championship banners that actually exist and hang at TD Garden. You won’t be seeing one for being a “finalist” or celebrating an actual sweep, such as Spurs over Cavs in the NBA Finals.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.

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Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."