By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
LAS VEGAS If the Boston Celtics are to have an NBA season this year, chances are pretty good it will end just like the last two: With a key Celtics big man retiring.
Jermaine O'Neal told CSNNE.com that, barring an unexpected change of heart, which he says is unlikely, this will be his last season.
Just a few months ago, Shaquille O'Neal retired after an underwhelming, injury-riddled season with the Celtics.
And following the 2010 season, Rasheed Wallace called it quits after the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
"I'm going into my 16th year, so I know my time is near," O'Neal said. "I know someday the ball is going to go flat; you have to plan for life after basketball and that's what I have been doing."
O'Neal is involved in a number of businesses, domestic and abroad.
In many ways, his approach to business - be diverse - is similar to how he has approached the NBA.
"There are some similarities," he said. "You have to be able to do different things and not just get locked into being one type of player or one type of businessman, if you want to be around."
Even with the start of the NBA season uncertain, O'Neal said he's committed to playing at least one more year.
But if the NBA owners and players union can't reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the 2011-2012 season is lost, O'Neal said playing overseas will not be an option.
"I have a 5-year-old son and a 12-year-old girl," he said. "They want to spend a lot of time with Daddy. At this point in my career, it doesn't make sense to go overseas and play for half-a-season. I want to be able to be ready and be fully prepared mentally and physically for what may be my last season."
He won't completely shut the door on playing beyond this upcoming season.
"You never say never, but like I said earlier, my kids are getting older," he said. "The only thing left that I want to do in this league is win a championship. That's why I came to Boston last year, because I felt this was the best place for me to do that: Win a championship."
O'Neal, a former first-round draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers, is a six-time All-Star (2002-2007) and three-time All-NBA selection. In 2002, he was the winner of the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
With career averages of 14 points and 7.4 rebound per game during in his career, O'Neal is coming off a season in which he averaged just 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game - the kind of numbers he hadn't registered since his end-of-the-bench days during the late 1990s in Portland.
"For me now, it's not about scoring or statistics," O'Neal said. "I've proven that I can score in this league, do a lot of good things. For me now, it's all about winning, being part of a winner. That's my motivation."