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."

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Danny Ainge made no secret of being miffed when Kansas small forward Josh Jackson canceled his workout with the Celtics in Sacramento at the last minute. 

The Celtics, of course, passed on Jackson and selected Jayson Tatum of Duke with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough's comments at Jackson's introductory press conference lend some credence to the theory that the canceled workout was part of Phoenix's plan to keep the Celtics from selecting Jackson and leave him for the Suns at No. 4.

Check out this portion of Jackson's presser via a tweet from Mike McClune of KPHO-TV: 

"I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition," said McDonough, a former assistant GM to Ainge with the C's "The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. [Armstrong, Jackson's agent] and I and...other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.

"We played by the rules – I guess,” McDonough said to some laughter in the room.

Jackson will certainly get more playing time with the rebuilding Suns that the contending Celtics. Ainge called Jackson "a terrific kid and a good player” after the draft, and said the Celtics were set on Tatum all along, even if they hadn't traded the No. 1 pick.

Jackson said his decision to blow off Ainge coach Brad Stevens and assistant GM Mike Zarren after their cross-country flight was "last-minute" and his plans to work out "just didn't work out."