Playing with Jermaine O’Neal last season, at least offensively, was sometimes like playing four-on-five — or rather, it was like playing five-on-five, if one of the five players was a six-time NBA All-Star whose legs simply couldn’t afford him the lift to affect a game on one end of the court.
Due to his great timing, knowledge of angles and intelligent decision-making, O’Neal was still able to impact games when he didn’t have the basketball. But offensively, O’Neal posted by far the worst season of his career. His PER (9.2) was significantly less than it had ever been, barely more than half of what it had been the year before (17.9). His offensive game, simply put, abandoned him over the summer of 2010.
But O’Neal vows this season will be different.
“I know [coach] Doc [Rivers] was in a tough position last year and I was almost no help on the offensive end last year,’’ O’Neal said. “And that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to dominate on the defensive end and give Doc an opportunity to, when Kevin [Garnett] gets tired in that low post, give him the opportunity to give it to me and help this team out.’’
O’Neal decided to forego offseason surgery on his broken wrist because surgery would have meant the end of his career. Rather than spending his summer resting and healing all the injuries that hurt him last season, O’Neal didn’t take much time off at all. (Boston Herald)
“You know, when you go through such a tough year that I went through last year, you ponder whether you want to keep going, as far as spending more time with your family, business or continuing to play,” O’Neal said. “When I came back, I felt physically good outside of me getting the back spasms. But my knee felt pain-free. And I wanted to really challenge myself this summer to see just how much my body could take. And I felt like I did that. I wanted to get as strong as possible, as fit as possible, and I put in a lot of time. To be honest, I really didn’t take much time off at all.
“I knew the season probably wouldn’t start on time, so I had a little bit more time to really challenge the body. I just got back from Chicago (and renowned trainer Tim Grover). I had a very difficult training session down there, but I felt strong. I didn’t have any problems in anything. I really wanted to focus in on the legs — get the legs strong, get the quads really strong so I can control the knee. So we’ll see.
“I think right now at the end of the day, when I look in that mirror, I know that I did everything I can do. I didn’t really see my family. My family had to come back here to go back to school in September. I was all over the place.”
And the results?
“I believe that conditioning-wise, I can go a lot further,” he said. “You can’t control injuries and things like that, but physically, if it comes down to pure strength — quads, legs, core, upper body — I’m a hell of a lot stronger.”
With the Celtics struggling to find proper help inside, he’ll have to be.
“I’ve been challenged all my life,” said O’Neal. “This ain’t nothing new. If I was afraid of this challenge, I’d have left. It ain’t about no money. I’m not playing for money. This is all pride. This is all pride.”
O’Neal talked a good game yesterday. Only time will tell if his body can stick together and allow him to bounce back. From the sounds of it, he’s done his part to prepare for a productive season.