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."