In news that’s as surprising as a morning sunrise, Jermaine O’Neal will consider retirement this offseason. (Boston Herald)
“I have a little boy that’s a sponge right now and he’s looking for more and more time from me,” O’Neal said. “Fifteen years (in the NBA), I’m 32 years old. That’s half my life.
“The most important thing for me right now is my family and my kids. Basketball has dominated so much of my life for so long that I have to really take an honest look. Now, every time I leave the house my son is asking when I’m coming back. When I call home, it’s, ‘When am I coming back?’ My daughter has been forgiving of it, but it may be time. I don’t know. I don’t want to suffer when I’m 45.” …
“Your body tends to tell you what time it is,” O’Neal said. “I missed so much of this year, it would be inappropriate for me to even make a decision. Not when it’s an emotional decision. I’m going to take a couple days off and stay on the program with our strength-and-conditioning guy and stick around Boston for another month and then gauge it after the month is over and see where the collective bargaining agreement is going.”
The looming lockout likely will cut into next season, which would be welcomed by O’Neal.
“There’s a lot of things that have to play out,” he said. “Obviously, we may not even play next year. And if we play half a year, for sure I know everybody’s coming back here. It benefits us in a major, major way. But you can only take some time away. I don’t know what guys are planning on doing, but I need to get my head away from this. It’s time to get back with the family. We’ll see what happens.”
My thoughts on O’Neal did a full 360 this season. I started the year thinking he was the perfect complementary piece—a defensive-minded center who had already accepted a lesser role and thus wouldn’t mind playing a backseat to Boston’s stars. Then I went through a period where I felt the same way about Jermaine that I feel about sushi (which I’ve eaten only once in my life, a bad decision that ended with me wearing the bitter beer face). At that point I thought he was softer than a brand new fleece blanket, and I had some evidence to support my claims—Jermaine gets injured more often than Evel Knievel ever did.
But when Jermaine returned from midseason surgery and then did his best to battle through whatever pain he still felt (from back spasms, a sprained wrist and the always-bothersome knees), I learned something: just because you’re oft-injured doesn’t always mean you’re soft. Sometimes, your body just fails you. Jermaine’s body failed him earlier this year, but he did everything he could to get back on the court. He got surgery. He trained with Tim Grover. He worked his arse off. In the end, he worked hard enough that he could make a difference in the playoffs. As much as I wanted to egg his house during the middle of the season, I respected him by the end. I still wish Jermaine could have played more minutes, had a little more lift on his layups and forced Glen Davis to go sit on the bench and ponder his existence. But, as I said earlier, sometimes your body just fails you.
Jermaine came to Boston to chase an elusive championship. If he doesn’t feel the Celtics are contenders next season, I’d be surprised if he returned for another spin. Which would leave the Celtics (assuming Shaq retires, which seems a given) center-less entering the free agency period. Yes, they used to have a young center who would presumably be around for a long time. No, they don’t have him anymore. As I said earlier, the Celtics will need to tread carefully between filling out next year’s roster and preparing for the inevitable “Rondo and four other guys” era. Starting centers don’t come cheap (just ask Brendan Haywood, who isn’t even a starter).
Hamed Haddadi, anyone?