J. O'Neal talks retirement after 2011-12 season


J. O'Neal talks retirement after 2011-12 season

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

LAS VEGAS If the Boston Celtics are to have an NBA season this year, chances are pretty good it will end just like the last two: With a key Celtics big man retiring.

Jermaine O'Neal told CSNNE.com that, barring an unexpected change of heart, which he says is unlikely, this will be his last season.

Just a few months ago, Shaquille O'Neal retired after an underwhelming, injury-riddled season with the Celtics.

And following the 2010 season, Rasheed Wallace called it quits after the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"I'm going into my 16th year, so I know my time is near," O'Neal said. "I know someday the ball is going to go flat; you have to plan for life after basketball and that's what I have been doing."

O'Neal is involved in a number of businesses, domestic and abroad.

In many ways, his approach to business - be diverse - is similar to how he has approached the NBA.

"There are some similarities," he said. "You have to be able to do different things and not just get locked into being one type of player or one type of businessman, if you want to be around."

Even with the start of the NBA season uncertain, O'Neal said he's committed to playing at least one more year.

But if the NBA owners and players union can't reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the 2011-2012 season is lost, O'Neal said playing overseas will not be an option.

"I have a 5-year-old son and a 12-year-old girl," he said. "They want to spend a lot of time with Daddy. At this point in my career, it doesn't make sense to go overseas and play for half-a-season. I want to be able to be ready and be fully prepared mentally and physically for what may be my last season."

He won't completely shut the door on playing beyond this upcoming season.

"You never say never, but like I said earlier, my kids are getting older," he said. "The only thing left that I want to do in this league is win a championship. That's why I came to Boston last year, because I felt this was the best place for me to do that: Win a championship."

O'Neal, a former first-round draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers, is a six-time All-Star (2002-2007) and three-time All-NBA selection. In 2002, he was the winner of the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

With career averages of 14 points and 7.4 rebound per game during in his career, O'Neal is coming off a season in which he averaged just 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game - the kind of numbers he hadn't registered since his end-of-the-bench days during the late 1990s in Portland.

"For me now, it's not about scoring or statistics," O'Neal said. "I've proven that I can score in this league, do a lot of good things. For me now, it's all about winning, being part of a winner. That's my motivation."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

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Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- On Friday night, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan absolutely torched the Boston Celtics. The game before that, it was Chicago’s Jimmy Butler giving the Celtics major fits with a barrage of baskets. 

Both were All-Star starters this year, the kind of lofty status that helps explain how the Celtics were so defensively-challenged in their efforts in limiting them.

Detroit doesn’t have a bona fide high-scoring perimeter star like those other teams, but don’t think for a minute that tonight’s game will be a breeze for the Celtics. Boston (37-21) comes in having lost two in a row to Chicago and Toronto, respectively. The Raptors loss was especially painful because it assured the Raptors would get the higher seed in the playoffs if these two teams finished with an identical record. 

Boston hopes to secure an edge over the Pistons tonight with a victory that will give them the season series, three games to one. While it may seem a bit early to get too caught up in tie-breakers and their importance, the last thing Boston wants is to finish the regular season tied with one or more teams, and wind up with the lower seed because they lost the head-to-head series. 

“You hear people say every game counts; it’s true,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We need to win as many games as we can because you never know which game could be the difference between having home court or not.”

If Boston continues to find ways to win and finish with a tie-free, top-four finish in the East, they will begin the playoffs at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Meanwhile the Pistons are currently eighth in the East and, like the Celtics, they too opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. And like Boston, they are looking for growth from within as they try to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We’re not real happy with how we’ve played up to this point overall,” said Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations and head coach. “But we still have a young group. As much as you would like the progress to be steadily uphill, it’s not always. That doesn’t mean you lose faith in your guys. At the end of the day, we ended up standing pat, which is pretty much what we expected to do.”

One of Boston’s biggest concerns coming into the game will be rebounding. It was among the many factors contributing to Boston’s loss on Friday. But as much as execution at both ends of the floor will be a factor, effort will be just as vital if not more, to the success of the Celtics in the playoffs. There were plenty of reasons as to why Boston lost on Friday night, with effort being near the top of the list. 

“They played harder than us,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. 

And that was surprising when you consider what was at stake – a chance to push their lead over Toronto to five games with a couple dozen to go.

Rookie forward Jaylen Brown has heard all the reasons and explanations as to why the Celtics have hit a mini-hiccup following back-to-back losses. And he has also heard how Boston blew a golden opportunity to beat Toronto with Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry still out. 

“We didn’t have one of our key guys, either,” said Brown, referring to Avery Bradley still being out with a foot injury. So it’s basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t’ matter who is on the floor. You have to do your job; we just have to do our job.”