From the perspective of a Boston Celtics fan, there were a lot of reasons to dislike Jermaine O’Neal. He said he put himself through a boot camp before this season, but he came back looking slightly chunky, just like he had last year. He couldn’t really move, either laterally or vertically, and his tendency to miss shots around the rim got frustrating really fast. He made $12 million for his time in Boston, $244,898 per regular season game he played, or in other words, way too much.
The former All-Star also carried a few redeeming qualities, like his willingness to try blocking any shots, even dunk attempts, and the sacrificial way he took charges, even with an injured wrist. He played during the playoffs last season with what was called a broken wrist, and he normally said the right things to the press, including that his only goal was to win his first championship.
It’s hard to fault somebody for a body that breaks down out of his own control, but Bill Simmons reports that O’Neal was the most hated Celtic (by people within the organization) since Vin Baker, and that the club feels he “stole money” from them. (Grantland via Jimmy Toscano)
Jermaine finished his Celtics career as the team’s least popular player, internally, since Vin Baker. The general feeling is, “He stole money from us.” Just dumping O’Neal from the trainer’s room so the players didn’t have to disgustedly look at him anymore and wonder things like, “Wait a second, isn’t his LEFT wrist the wrist that’s hurt? He can’t play with that? Isn’t he right-handed? He’s really that big of a pussy?” was probably worth a few extra wins already. It’s hard to understand why one of the league’s most thoughtful players — a real warrior once upon a time — felt good about finishing his career with his last set of teammates and coaches believing he was something of a fraud. Just know that, on the slight chance that this Celtics team wins a title or comes close, Jermaine shouldn’t expect a full playoff share.
Maybe everything I ever thought about Jermaine (to begin with) was right. I came to think he put off surgery (twice, once in each of his two seasons) because he wanted to stay on the court as long as he could, but maybe he was just soft, like I originally believed. After all, he did leave the court for the locker room almost every game to check out some new injury. He played 49 regular season games during two seasons in Boston. He hasn’t been seen around the team once (from what I know) since he decided to have surgery, a sign that perhaps he never liked being there in the first place. Hell, Jeff Green comes back far more often than O’Neal and he’s a goddamn free agent with no affiliation to the Celtics whatsoever right now.
I got a text from one of my buddies yesterday saying, “I wish the Celtics had cut Jermaine rather than Wilcox, just because.” I simply nodded my head. Wilcox would have run through a wall for his team. If O’Neal ran through a wall, he’d either injure himself or leave for the locker room, holding his shoulder or wrist or knee or ankle and pretending he felt horrible. Everything I suspected to begin with now looks to be true. Jermaine O’Neal was an overpaid, out of shape, training camp MVP who didn’t deserve one-fourth of the money Boston paid him.