O'Neal says it's a contender or quits

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O'Neal says it's a contender or quits

WALTHAM Boston Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal wants to stay here and win an NBA title.

But if he's shipped out of Boston and winds up with a non-title contender, that may very well spell the end of his NBA career.

"If I'm not in Boston, I'm going to be somewhere where I can contend for a championship," he said. "If I'm not somewhere I can contend for a championship, then I'll be in the business world or come in and try to do what you're doing, do some interviews."

O'Neal has been the subject of a potential trade with the New Orleans Hornets that would net the C's two-time all-star David West.

Trade rumors come with the territory, says O'Neal.

"It's a business," O'Neal said. "We understand the position that these (team) presidents are in. They'll talk about anybody. If they have a chance on making the team better - in their opinion - they'll make a trade. You can't control those type of things. Just show up, come to work and focus on that."

O'Neal has had conversations with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge as well as C's head coach Doc Rivers regarding his future with the team.

He wouldn't discuss specifics from those conversations, but it's clear he is hoping for the best - staying in Boston - but being prepared for the worst which, for him, would be being traded to a bad team.

"If I go somewhere else, it won't be to a losing team," O'Neal said. "That just doesn't make any sense. It has to be a team that has an opportunity to win it. If not, then I'll focus more on my family and focus more on business."

While the deal being proposed would send him to New Orleans, he'll likely be shipped out immediately to another team.

O'Neal said he's "sure it would be a third team. They're (Hornets) not trying to get older. They're trying to build cap space and things like that. At this point in my career, any young team or team trying to get under the cap, wouldn't trade for me."

Getting rid of O'Neal seems a bit odd when you consider the Celtics do not have another center on the roster with NBA experience. However, Rivers alluded to the fact that the C's may not have a prototypical center in the starting lineup this season. If the West trade goes through, it's not out of the question to see Paul Pierce at small forward, West at power forward and Kevin Garnett start at center.

As much as trade talk seems to generate increased interest, O'Neal reiterated that his desire is to remain with the Celtics.

"That's the first option for me, to stay here," O'Neal said. "I'm getting comfortable with the guys, getting comfortable with the system. That's first and foremost. But you never want to act like you don't understand the business of the game. The business has changed dramatically over the last couple years, especially now where it's about making money (for teams) and saving money, and position yourself for future trades and stuff like that. It is what it is."

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.