Jermaine O'Neal has surgery, out eight weeks

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Jermaine O'Neal has surgery, out eight weeks

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When it comes to the Boston Celtics big men, change hasn't been a good thing all season.

So when the news spread that Jermaine O'Neal's status with the team was changing, well, fearing the worst was understandable.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told reporters after Friday night's 101-97 loss to Dallas, said that O'Neal underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and would be out for 6-8 weeks.

"The first part of April is our hope (for O'Neal to return)," Ainge said.

After a battery of tests from local and national medical experts, the C's decided earlier that they would try and rest the knee and bring him back to the fold in about a month.

Ainge said the knee was not responding the way they wanted it to, which is when O'Neal reconsidered having surgery during the season.

The surgery that O'Neal will be having is the same surgery the C's had given some consideration to him having earlier this season.

"Jermaine had seen other doctors," Ainge said. "And it's not a - Jermaine couldn't be given 100 assurance that it was going to fix everything, so he was just trying to fix it just by resting and building up the glutes and quads that we talked about last time."

But it was becoming painfully clear to both the C's and O'Neal that the injury was not getting any better.

Because he has had knee issues in past, the Celtics had MRIs taken before signing him.

"They've worsened from the time of what we saw in the summer," said Ainge, referring to the MRIs taken then and now.

The concern was that the knee would have some swelling with rigorous physical activity.

But there was inflammation even without him working out.

"Even without activity, the swelling was there and that's when he decided to change the course of the game plan," Ainge said.

Rivers said he didn't find out until Thursday that O'Neal was going to have surgery soon.

"I thought it was the right decision," Rivers said. "I wish he had moved a little earlier on it, but I think JO had to make sure he wanted to do it. And he exhausted every avenue, which I thought he should've done because it's a tough decision."

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins can relate to what Jermaine O'Neal is contending with now.

A six-time all-star, O'Neal came to Boston knowing his role would be reduced just because of the shear number of superstar talent the C's have.

While disappointed that he won't be with them for the bulk of the regular season, O'Neal's teammates are encouraged by the idea that he'll return just in time for the playoffs.

"A guy like Jermaine is a great guy, great addition to the team," said Kendrick Perkins, who made his first start of the season against the Mavericks and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. "To know he's coming back in a month or so is great. "We could use him in the playoffs, everybody and every game."

If O'Neal is back in time for the playoffs, he will be hard-pressed to break through and get meaningful minutes.

While O'Neal is out, Kendrick Perkins will re-establish himself as the team's starting center. Shaquille O'Neal will continue to use his muscle to overpower people. And don't forget about rookie Semih Erden who has done a really solid job when called upon at the last minute.

Getting past those players will be difficult for O'Neal, if downright next to impossible.

Still, having another big man available for this final stretch run can only help the C's.

"You don't want him to go through surgery," Perkins said. "But it's great to hear he can return at the end of the season."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.