O'Neal accepts defensive role

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O'Neal accepts defensive role

BOSTON Jermaine O'Neal was not in a good mood following Monday night's loss to Oklahoma City.

It wasn't just because of the game's outcome which extended the Boston Celtics' losing streak to five in a row.

The play of O'Neal has come under fire lately, with a number of NBA pundits pointing out how the 33-year-old's game has fallen off considerably - especially when it comes to scoring.

So following Monday's loss, O'Neal fired back.

O'Neal spent the majority of his post-game spiel explaining that what he's doing - and not doing - in Boston has more to do with his role than what some believe are diminishing skills.

"With me here, Doc (Rivers) has given his role," said O'Neal, who tallied his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. "So all the debate about whether I score, if I score people wondering about me scoring, that's not my role. My role has been given to me. My role has been said to be a defender and not offensively."

So when it comes to measuring his play, O'Neal is emphatic that it be on what he does defensively.

"Judge me on how I get out on the pick-and-roll and help the guards," he said. "Judge me on how I step up on penetration. This debate about my scoring it's not my position right now. If I'm not rebounding. If I'm not taking charges, then we got a conversation to have."

O'Neal, like most of this aging squad, has been up and down with his play at both ends of the court. While he has been solid as a rebounder and a defender of late, he too had some problems at the start of the season rotating late at times defensively, and not providing the kind of rebounding presence the Celtics need from their starting center.

"I think Jermaine is no different than any of our other players," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com. "He wants to play better, and we need him to play better for us to be a good team. I think all of our players understand that."

Although O'Neal spent most of the summer working out and conditioning his body for the rigors of this season, he too has been slow to play at a consistent level.

"I'm starting to get my legs back as far as rebounding; getting my timing," O'Neal said. "That's my concern."

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly said that O'Neal needs to provide a defensive presence and rebound, in order to help the Celtics.

As far as his scoring, Rivers isn't overly concerned with that aspect of his game. Still, there are things he can do to help both his scoring opportunities as well as those for his teammates.

O'Neal rolled hard to the basket against the Thunder, which was one of the reasons he tallied a season-high 12 points.

"That's one of the things we've been working with him - instead of rolling to that short, little jump shot he's rolling to the basket now," Rivers said. "And that opens up either him or a guard."

And while it was refreshing for O'Neal to have a breakout-type game scoring, he understands that limiting points - not scoring them - is the best way he can help the Celtics.

"It's a little different than I'm used to, but I accept that role with open arms," O'Neal said. "Whatever it is, I accept that."

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come. 

The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge. 

There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season. 

The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.

Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.

But that pot's still simmering,

And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .

But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.

Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .  

Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal. 

Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.

For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.

It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.