J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee

191544.jpg

J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There will be no prime-time special or children parading around a nearby Boys & Girls Club outside Boston awaiting Jermaine O'Neal to announce his "decision."

But make no mistake about it.

The ramifications will be felt by the Boston Celtics, one way or another.

O'Neal went to New York to have a second opinion on his sore left knee, one of the many injuries he's had this season while being limited to just 17 games.

In those 17 games, he has averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 18.1 minutes.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that O'Neal was stuck in New York because of the weather.

"So we haven't had any meetings," Ainge said, adding that a meeting is expected to happen Wednesday.

"And we'll figure out a game plan going forward," Ainge said.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said that if O'Neal elects to have surgery, it will likely result in him having little to no role with the team during the playoffs.

"I think we're leaning towards no surgery, obviously, if he wants to play," Rivers said prior to Boston's 109-106 win over Orlando on Monday. "But maybe someone can say he can do it and he can be back in four weeks, that would be different. I don't know."

Regardless, O'Neal will be sidelined for a significant period of time, which is yet another blow to the Celtics' depth in the frontcourt.

If the Celtics elect to have him rest the knee like he did earlier this season for six weeks and then return to action, look for O'Neal to play less than 10 more regular-season games.

After playing in 70 games last season with the Miami Heat, the Celtics thought O'Neal and his history of injuries would not be an issue.

O'Neal felt the same way.

They were both wrong.

And because of that, Boston will likely spend a good chunk of the remaining regular season down at least one big man.

However, the return of starting center Kendrick Perkins - he's targeting Feb. 4 against Dallas - will certainly ease the potential loss, short or long-term, of not having O'Neal.

Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL injury in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June.

He recently returned to full contact practice with the Celtics.

As much as O'Neal and his injury have been a big disappointment to the player and the C's, fans must remember he wasn't brought to Boston to be the team's full-time starting center.

He was essentially added as a stop-gap until Perkins return to the lineup.

From there, he would fall back into the backup mix of bigs that includes Shaquille O'Neal, Semih Erden and Glen Davis, who plays both power forward and center.

With all those bigs, at some point Rivers was going to have to tell one of his talented centers that in all likelihood, there would be games in which they would not play.

This most recent knee injury to Jermaine O'Neal makes the "decision" for Rivers along those lines, a lot easier to make.

Still, that doesn't make the decision that O'Neal has grappling with, any easier.

Before he had the second opinion, O'Neal sounded like man torn between doing what he needs (surgery) and what he wants (to play), well aware that the two are essentially at odds right now.

"It's almost a shock to the system," Jermaine O'Neal said. "There is a chance that you may not come back and play. There's a chance that it might not go as well as you want it to go. A lot of different things can happen when you go through surgery. At the end of the day, you have to live with the decision you make. To me, it's all about playing. I just want to play; I just want to help."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at www.twitter.comsherrodcsn.

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”