Jermaine O'Neal surprises in first game back

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Jermaine O'Neal surprises in first game back

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SAN ANTONIO The grueling workouts, six days a week. The countless hours spent conditioning, trying to get his confidence up and game back on track while dropping a few pounds along the way.

This has been the journey taken by Jermaine O'Neal since he underwent left knee surgery on Feb. 5.

He's healthy now for the first time as a member of the Boston Celtics.

And while he still has some rust to shake off, the 6-foot-11 center made the kind of return that the C's desperately needed to knock off San Antonio, 107-97.

O'Neal, who hadn't played since Jan. 10, had five points in just over 11 minutes of action against the Spurs.

"I couldn't pick a better place than come and challenge what I've been through the last few months, than against a good team like San Antonio," O'Neal said.

Prior to the game, Doc Rivers made it clear that he had no idea how much he would get from O'Neal, or how long he would be able to use him.

Rivers liked what he saw from O'Neal offensively, but he was even more impressed with his defense.

The turning point in Boston's win on Thursday came in the third quarter.

O'Neal entered the game with 4:45 to play in the third, and the Celtics down 67-65.

By the time the quarter ended, the Celtics had a seven-point lead with him on the floor.

"I was happy to see him defensively moving, very well," Rivers said.

So were his teammates.

And while there are some who are concerned about whether there's enough time for Jermaine O'Neal to get up to speed, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo doesn't believe that's an issue.

"I think he is up to speed," said Rondo, who had 22 points and 14 assists for his team-leading 28th double-double of the season. "I say he's got to get his conditioning. Being out so long, the one thing you don't take for granted, especially when you get out there on the court, you're banging bodies, and you're on pick and roll, so if he can get his conditioning back he'll be fine."

O'Neal was pleased for the most part with his play against the Spurs.

But it's just a start.

O'Neal knows he has plenty of room to improve, and plans to do so.

"I look at what I did today," he said. "I have to be better tomorrow."

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

Pistons to honor Hamilton, who had impact on several Celtics

Pistons to honor Hamilton, who had impact on several Celtics

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Pistons will retire the jersey number of former UConn star Rip Hamilton tonight, an instrumental figure in the Pistons’ success in the early 2000s that included an NBA title in 2004.
 
Although Hamilton never played for Boston, his impact can be felt within the Celtics locker room.
 
Boston’s Amir Johnson spent his first four NBA seasons as a teammate of Hamilton's in Detroit.
 
In that time, Johnson acknowledges how many of the positive things folks associate with him come from lessons he learned from Hamilton.
 
“He was so relentless when he ran,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “I remember working out with him one summer. For him to even get his shot off, he sprints full court, goes back down shooting shots, and he just kept doing this over and over and over again, full court sprinting . . . To see that as a young kid, and at his age, just working hard like that, it was great to see.”
 
James Young grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., so he watched Hamilton’s scoring prowess up close and personal.
 
And as he continued to evolve as a player, Young would see Hamilton during the summer months while attending Hamilton’s basketball camps.
 
“I was there every year, won MVP a few times,” Young told CSNNE.com. “He’s a great guy, a great player.”
 
And, like Hamilton, Young has a lanky frame for an NBA player, which was among the many reasons Young acknowledged Hamilton as being one of his first significant basketball influences as a youth.
 
“For sure,” Young said. “His mid-range game was crazy, great shooter. He was always consistent.”
 
And that consistency has paid off in the highest honor an NBA franchise can bestow upon a player.
 
“That’s big time,” Johnson said. “He’s a champion, great father, great baller. To have his jersey retired is an honor. To see the success he had in the league, and to see his jersey retired with the greats, it's definitely an honor. I’m glad I’ll be there to see that. Kudos to him. He’s a hard worker. Had a great career. I had my high school jersey retired, but to get your NBA jersey retired, that’s great.”
 
Hamilton played 14 seasons in the NBA, nine of which were with the Pistons. A career 17.1 points per game score, he averaged 18.4 with Detroit and was named an Eastern Conference All-Star three times (2006-2008).
 
Although he is known as one of the greatest mid-range shooters of his era, Hamilton began to expand his range over time. During the 2005-06 season, Hamilton shot 45.8 percent from 3-point range (most of them being corner 3’s), which led the NBA that season.  

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

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