Jermaine O’Neal wants the people to know that he did not want surgery, did everything in his power to return to the Boston Celtics and never asked for a buyout. (Boston Herald)
“I did everything in my power to come back and help this team,” he told the Herald in a telephone interview a few moments ago. “They told me I needed surgery on my (left) wrist right away after I was hurt in Dallas (on Feb. 20), but I waited and got treatment to see if there was some way I could come back this season.”
“This is really hard,” O’Neal said. “It’s like being with your favorite girlfriend, growing up together since you were 8, falling in love with her and having this long relationship. And then towards the end, things begin to happen and all of sudden she’s not there anymore.
“Without that ligament there, the bones are moving around like bag of marbles. I was past the cortisone stage. You do all you can do, and sometimes that bell doesn’t ring.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody in our league that’s played 16 years who has fought harder over the last two years to be healthy than me. I think fans sometimes don’t understand the human nature of us. They look at the money, but for us, we live real lives. We bleed the same way.
“I just want people to know that I really wanted to come back and help the Celtics, but it just didn’t work.”
I really believe O’Neal’s one of the more misunderstood Celtics in a while. He spent eight weeks rehabbing from surgery so he could return for last season’s playoffs. He played through a broken wrist last year. Tried again to play through all sorts of pain this season. Sometimes, a man’s body simply doesn’t work.
He’s been the butt of jokes his entire time in Boston after being an All-Star during other stops in his career. I joined the chorus, mostly because it was easy to make fun of the 7-footer making $6 million per season to occasionally perform decently during NBA games. But O’Neal deserves some credit. He tried. And I truly believe he agonized over the decision to undergo season-ending surgery. He wanted to salvage any chance to prolong his season and let him lace those high-tops again. His heart was there, methinks. His body just wasn’t, and in the end that ruined any chance O’Neal had of becoming beloved in Boston.