Celtics cope with mental challenges while injured

Celtics cope with mental challenges while injured
January 19, 2011, 5:55 am
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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