It’s very early in the Jermaine O’Neal era, for sure. But he has started his Celtics career saying all the right things. (ESPN Boston)
“I knew what they were trying to do [in Miami], and I could have re-signed back with those guys,” O’Neal said of his former team, which recruited LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade this offseason. “It comes down to fit; it comes down to personality and the style of play. Boston has that all for me.
“This was the most important choice that I’ve made in my career, the first time I’ve been a free agent in my 14 years. It was very difficult, but over the next two years, I needed to be where it’s strictly about winning now and not worrying about chemistry or worrying about anything else. It’s just about coming in and helping the team win, being involved in something great.
“I felt like the Celtics have the best team. I had a chance to re-sign back with [Miami], but I thought this was where I was meant to be.” [...]
“[The Big Three] are at a position in their career, and I’m kinda at the same position,” O’Neal said. “Obviously, those guys have a ring, but they want another one. I don’t have a ring and I want one.
“Their hunger, their focus are at a different level. There’re other good teams out there that I looked at that I could compete for a championship with. But these guys just came off an NBA Finals appearance, and in 2008 they won one. They know what it takes to get there, and really, when thinking about it and talking to my family, we thought this was the best fit for me.”
And please, Jermaine cautions, don’t expect a position battle to see who starts at center.
“This is something I want to talk about now and not talk about anymore during the season: When [Perkins] comes back, it’s his position to have,” O’Neal said. “I’m just here to do my job. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s feet or cause any issues. I’m just here to win; that’s what it boils down to.
“There were a couple situations where I talked to teams and I probably wouldn’t have wanted to back anyone up. But this situation is proven. Why come in and mess up something that’s already proven?”
I’m liking this guy already. And he did the Celtics a huge favor by signing with them instead of Miami. I’m not just talking about how much he’ll help the Celtics, either. Because let’s say O’Neal returned to Miami and took Udonis Haslem’s money. Dwight Howard wouldn’t be salivating as much as he is right now, I’ll tell you that much.
So thank you, Jermaine, for keeping the Heat from utter dominance. I just have one request of you: Please, please play harder than Sheed did.