J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee


J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON There will be no prime-time special or children parading around a nearby Boys & Girls Club outside Boston awaiting Jermaine O'Neal to announce his "decision."

But make no mistake about it.

The ramifications will be felt by the Boston Celtics, one way or another.

O'Neal went to New York to have a second opinion on his sore left knee, one of the many injuries he's had this season while being limited to just 17 games.

In those 17 games, he has averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 18.1 minutes.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that O'Neal was stuck in New York because of the weather.

"So we haven't had any meetings," Ainge said, adding that a meeting is expected to happen Wednesday.

"And we'll figure out a game plan going forward," Ainge said.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said that if O'Neal elects to have surgery, it will likely result in him having little to no role with the team during the playoffs.

"I think we're leaning towards no surgery, obviously, if he wants to play," Rivers said prior to Boston's 109-106 win over Orlando on Monday. "But maybe someone can say he can do it and he can be back in four weeks, that would be different. I don't know."

Regardless, O'Neal will be sidelined for a significant period of time, which is yet another blow to the Celtics' depth in the frontcourt.

If the Celtics elect to have him rest the knee like he did earlier this season for six weeks and then return to action, look for O'Neal to play less than 10 more regular-season games.

After playing in 70 games last season with the Miami Heat, the Celtics thought O'Neal and his history of injuries would not be an issue.

O'Neal felt the same way.

They were both wrong.

And because of that, Boston will likely spend a good chunk of the remaining regular season down at least one big man.

However, the return of starting center Kendrick Perkins - he's targeting Feb. 4 against Dallas - will certainly ease the potential loss, short or long-term, of not having O'Neal.

Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL injury in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June.

He recently returned to full contact practice with the Celtics.

As much as O'Neal and his injury have been a big disappointment to the player and the C's, fans must remember he wasn't brought to Boston to be the team's full-time starting center.

He was essentially added as a stop-gap until Perkins return to the lineup.

From there, he would fall back into the backup mix of bigs that includes Shaquille O'Neal, Semih Erden and Glen Davis, who plays both power forward and center.

With all those bigs, at some point Rivers was going to have to tell one of his talented centers that in all likelihood, there would be games in which they would not play.

This most recent knee injury to Jermaine O'Neal makes the "decision" for Rivers along those lines, a lot easier to make.

Still, that doesn't make the decision that O'Neal has grappling with, any easier.

Before he had the second opinion, O'Neal sounded like man torn between doing what he needs (surgery) and what he wants (to play), well aware that the two are essentially at odds right now.

"It's almost a shock to the system," Jermaine O'Neal said. "There is a chance that you may not come back and play. There's a chance that it might not go as well as you want it to go. A lot of different things can happen when you go through surgery. At the end of the day, you have to live with the decision you make. To me, it's all about playing. I just want to play; I just want to help."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at www.twitter.comsherrodcsn.