J. O'Neal breaks through versus Knicks

191544.jpg

J. O'Neal breaks through versus Knicks

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- For those who viewed the final games of the Boston Celtics' regular season as meaningless, Jermaine ONeal begs to differ.

Last Mondays contest against the Washington Wizards was more than an opportunity for Doc Rivers to rest four of his five starters. It turned out to be the boost Jermaine ONeal needed heading into Game One against the New York Knicks.

I think the best thing for me was being able to play those 37 minutes against the Wizards, he said of the game, in which he posted a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double. It gave me a great feeling of what Im comfortable with doing. Ten, 12 minutes a game, its hard to do that. But that game I was able to get to places and really test the knee.

On Sunday ONeal was able to do all of the above against the Knicks, scoring 12 points (66 FG), grabbing four rebounds, and blocking four shots in less than 23 minutes.

Following the game, Rivers credited ONeal for the win.

Ive got to say, Jermaine ONeal tonight was we won the game because of Jermaine ONeal, he said. Thats it. Forget his offense. His defense, his presence, his shot-blocking, his rebounding, his toughness and he did it in both halves. He was absolutely wonderful.

ONeals breakthrough performance came at an ideal time for the Celtics with the return of Shaquille ONeal in question. He gave the team the inside presence they had been missing since trading Kendrick Perkins in February and playing without Shaq.

At the end of the day, this is who we are, Rivers said of the center position. This is who we have. And were fine. Were ready.

The Celtics are confident having ONeal in the middle. They were impressed by his performances late in the season and expected him to make an impact in the playoffs.

I can see over the last few games the way Jermaine played a lot of extended minutes and really played well, said Paul Pierce. We saw that his health was really getting a lot better, he was getting his legs under him. Right on time.

Even though he missed a lot of games, he was big out there tonight for us with his shot blocking, he knocked down a couple of shots outside the lane. Just his presence is going to be big for us in the middle with Shaq being out. Im happy the way hes really progressed the last couple of weeks and hes carried it into the playoffs.

O'Neal's productivity in Game One was a complete turnaround from last season's first round series against the Celtics as a member of the Miami Heat. He shot 9-for-44 (20.5 FG) over five games, which he called a horrific shooting experience.

Looking to win it all this year, ONeal dedicated himself to the Celtics system. He studied game film leading up to the playoffs, making sure he got to the places on the court where the team needed him the most.

This team is built a lot differently than I was quite used to in my 15-year span, he said. You have to stay in a certain zone because if you step outside of that zone you affect the other guys. Trying to find that comfort zone of where those shots are going to be is something that I really have focused on the last three or four days.

This postseason is about moving on - moving on from injuries, moving on from poor performances in the past. All of the obstacles from the regular season were left behind once the playoffs began.

Its been a rough year, no question, ONeal said. This is probably been the hardest year of my career just mentally. Its just been a grind. My teammates, my brothers, have really helped me get through this. This city has helped me get through this. I just continue to work. Its just one game. Youve got to focus on some of the things you did good and try to get better the next game, thats my thought process.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratoNBA. She can be reached at jessicacamerato@gmail.com.

How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

csoraldrafts525_1280x720_692983363611.jpg

How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

We take a look at how the 1956 Boston Celtics draft landed them three All-Stars and changed the franchise forever.

Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

avery-bradley.jpg

Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

BOSTON -- It seems that while Avery Bradley comes back every season with something new that he’s added to his game offensively, his defense has always been solid.

But this past year, Bradley, 25, was more committed to being not just a great on-the-ball defender, but also to expanding his game at that end of the floor to be a better help defender, too.

Bradley’s efforts didn't go unnoticed. The NBA announced Wednesday that he was among the players named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

It was Bradley's first time being named to the first team. His only other all-league recognition defensively came in 2013, when he was named to the league's second unit.

Bradley's play certainly was pivotal in his selection. But it didn't hurt that Portland's C.J. McCollum praised Bradley via social media as the best perimeter defender in the NBA.

"I don't think it's close," tweeted McCollum. 

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was the lone unanimous choice on the first team. In addition to Leonard and Bradley, the first team also included Golden State’s Draymond Green, Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan’s teammate Chris Paul.

Of the first-team players, Bradley was third in total points (149), which included 62 first-team votes and 25 second-team votes. The only players with more first-team votes were Leonard (130) and Green (123).

Players were awarded two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.

The All-NBA Defensive Second team included Paul Millsap of Atlanta, Paul George of Indiana, Hassan Whiteside of Miami, ex-Celtic and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.

Bradley wasn’t the only Celtic to receive some all-Defensive love from voters. Jae Crowder had a total of 47 points, which included 3 first-team votes. His 47 points were the third-highest among players not named to the first or second team.  Also, Celtics guard Marcus Smart received seven points which included 2 first-team votes.

Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

kelly-olynyk-celtics-052516.jpg

Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

BOXFORD, Mass. -- It was just last week that Kelly Olynyk underwent right shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing for the Canadian National Team this summer in their quest for an Olympics berth in Rio, as well as have him sidelined until sometime in October. 

And yet there was the Celtics center on Wednesday with his right arm in a sling, chatting it up with kids at Spofford Pond School as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab during an unveiling ceremony, courtesy of the Celts and National Grid.

The C's and National Grid purchased 25 Chromebooks, 13 Samsung Galaxy Tablets and a 65-inch Samsung Smart TV as well as other high-tech, education-related items.

“I love the opportunity to come out, give back to the community,” said Olynyk who was also joined by former Celtic Leon Powe and Terry Sobolewski, the Chief Customer Officer for National Grid Massachusetts. “I’ve been sitting in my living room the last eight days, looking at the same four walls.”

And for Olynyk, the days of going stir crazy won’t end anytime soon.

The 7-footer had surgery on May 16, the day after he told CSNNE.com that if he elected to have surgery he would be sidelined for five months.

On Wednesday, Olynyk reiterated that the timeline for him to resume full contact had not changed.

Olynyk told CSNNE.com earlier that the surgery was “inevitable,” but that didn’t make it any easier.

“Probably the hardest decision of my life,” Olynyk said. “As far as weighing the national team, the opportunity to play in the Olympics. I played with Team Canada the last eight years, waiting for this opportunity, waiting for this day to come where we’d be on this stage, have this before us. But with the Celtics . . . talking to a bunch of people, it was inevitable that I was going to need surgery.”

Among the biggest concerns for Olynyk was the possibility of playing with Team Canada and suffering another right shoulder injury that would require surgery and potentially lead to him missing the start of the season.

By having the surgery last week Olynyk is expected to resume practicing with the Celts in the middle of October, which would give him a couple weeks of having been cleared before the season starts.

“I couldn’t miss next year,” said Olynyk who added that the decision to have the surgery was his and did not involve the Celtics pressuring him to do so. “We’re moving in the right direction. You want to keep that momentum going. It was a really tough decision. But it was something I needed to do.”

Olynyk said he will be in a sling for at least two weeks, adding that he will be in it for another 10 days or so.

“My guess is you progress, getting that motion back, making sure everything is fine, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

A healthy Olynyk could prove vital to the growth of his game as well as the Celtics’ desire to build off of last season’s 48-win club that made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row but also suffered a second consecutive first-round defeat.

Last season, Olynyk averaged 10.0 points per game and shot a career-best 40.5 percent from 3-point range. A stronger Olynyk could give the Celtics more options in how they want to use him going forward. For the most part, Boston likes to have Olynyk on the floor because of his perimeter shooting, which helps with spacing. But if he’s physically stronger, Boston can look to post him up from time to time as well, which would make him a much more dangerous weapon offensively.

No one anticipates Olynyk will suddenly morph into a dominant, inside-outside scoring threat. But added strength does give him a chance to improve as both a rebounder and defender, two areas in which Olynyk was up and down this past season.

And admittedly he was at his worst during the playoffs, when the Celtics desperately needed someone -- anyone -- to help space the floor as the Hawks packed in the paint, which limited the drives to the basket by Isaiah Thomas.

“(I was) cleared [medically to play], but I wasn’t able to help the team at all. I couldn’t do anything,” Olynyk said. “My arm . . . I couldn’t hold off one of these kids with my arm. Shooting pains, it was giving out. Motions without contact were okay. But once you put any contact on my arm, it was done. So I couldn’t do anything.”

Olynyk is hopeful the surgery will alleviate the issues with the shoulder, which sidelined him for 12 games in addition to limiting his effectiveness in the playoffs.

“[The doctors] tell me [I’m] going to be stronger than [I’ve] ever felt, ever been,” Olynyk said.