Celtics

J. O'Neal is showing the Celtics what he can do

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J. O'Neal is showing the Celtics what he can do

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

CHICAGO Inside the mind of Boston Celtics big man Jermaine O'Neal, you'll find images of confetti streaming down from high atop the ceiling.

There are people, lots of them. The only thing that might be in greater numbers, are the tears shed by O'Neal.

They are tears of joy because all the long, painful hours he put in trying to recover from a potential season-ending knee injury, have paid off as he helped the Celtics bring home Banner 18.

It's all in his head -- for now.

But such imagery from O'Neal isn't all that surprising when you consider the six-time All-Star is also a movie producer with his most recent project, "Inheritance," slated to be released some time this year.

Nearing the end of his basketball career, O'Neal tells CSNNE.com that this is something that he will explore even more so when he's done playing.

For now, he's more focused on helping produce an NBA championship.

And the road map to making that happen includes several weeks spent here in Chicago with training guru Tim Grover as part of his recovery from left knee surgery in February.

"It was basically like training camp, with two-a-days for like three weeks," O'Neal told CSNNE.com, adding that Sunday was the only day he took off during those weeks.

There's little doubt that since O'Neal returned to the Celtics, he looks more like the guy that started 72 games last year for the Miami Heat, than the injury-riddled player Celtics fans had seen pre-left knee surgery.

His numbers in the four games since his return won't wow you -- 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game.

But there's no mistaking the 6-foot-11 center has made an impact in the one area the Celtics have been sorely lacking since trading away Kendrick Perkins on Feb. 24 -- interior defense.

Boston has ranked among the NBA's leaders in scoring defense all season, and is currently tops in the NBA by giving up just 90.8 points per game.

In the last four games -- three Celtics wins -- that number has dropped to 89.3 points per game. O'Neal has started the last two games, and the Celtics have given up just 86 points per game.

Now that can't all be attributed to the return of O'Neal. But having him back certainly hasn't hurt.

Coach Doc Rivers has been singing the praises of O'Neal ever since he returned to the lineup.

He was especially pleased with the way O'Neal played in Boston's 99-82 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday.

O'Neal had nine points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in just under 13 minutes.

"JO was terrific," Rivers said. "You know, he was aggressive, he was attacking, his defense was phenomenal. He's just been really good since he's been back; just buys in; we rarely go to him but he gets the ball in the right places because he's in the right spots. Defensively he's been very good."

Glen Davis is also among the Celtics glad to see O'Neal back on the floor.

"Having Jermaine makes it easier for all of us," Glen Davis told CSNNE.com. "He gives us another guy with size, around the basket, who can defend. It helps you at both ends of the floor, really."

Because of his added post presence, the Celtics can now get out in transition more following a defensive stop.

He's even had moments since returning when he has been able to out-run his defender up court and finish around the basket.

You hardly saw that at all before the injury. Part of that was because he wasn't healthy.

O'Neal admitted that there were also some trust issues as well.

"Because I wasn't healthy, the guys really didn't know what I could do to help offensively," he told CSNNE.com. "So when I came back, it was just a matter of showing them, showing Doc that I was back, that they could go to me if they wanted to and I would come through. We never really had a chance to establish that the way I would have wanted to, before the surgery."

O'Neal understands that he will never be a No. 1, 2 or even 3 option with this team.

That's okay.

Simply being part of a squad that's playing for something bigger than a paycheck, he says, is all he wants now.

And while this isn't his first time being part of a title contender, he admits it's more special because of the timing.

"Opportunities before," O'Neal said, "it was like how many opportunities am I going to have? That was the thought process. But now, there's no guarantee I'm going to play after next year," he said. "There's no guarantee we're going to play at all next year, as a league. You have to value these opportunities, because they are not a given."

When O'Neal entered the league straight from high school, he was part of a talented Portland team that included former Celtic Rasheed Wallace.

Although he didn't play much early on, those teams routinely made it deep into the playoffs.

And after he was traded to Indiana, the Pacers soon made deep playoff runs an expectation when former Celtic great Larry Bird was the head coach.

But those times are in the past now.

Those teams, that success, that Jermaine O'Neal . . . nothing but memories now.

He's looking to create some new ones now.

And they all center around one thing: Banner 18.

"I get emotional about it because I know that feeling; that feeling . . . you want that feeling," O'Neal said. "You want to go through that. God willing, I'll get that opportunity because I may not get that opportunity again if I don't get it this year."

And that, O'Neal said, would be the perfect storybook ending to his playing career a story that just might be at movie theater near you someday.

"You never know," said O'Neal, smiling. "You never know."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

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Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

Just when all the video tribute controversy between Isaiah Thomas and Paul Pierce seemed to be dying down, Jalen Rose heated it right back up.

Live on ESPN's "NBA Countdown," Rose called Pierce "petty" for his comments on the Celtics potentially holding a video tribute for Isaiah on Feb. 11 when Pierce gets his jersey retired.

Jalen Rose called Paul Pierce petty right to his face... 😳

A post shared by DIME on UPROXX (@dimemagazine) on

Thomas tweeted on Tuesday that he (again) declined the Celtics' offer to hold the tribute for him so it wouldn't interfere with Pierce's night. But if you look at the likes on the Instagram video above, posted by dimemagazine, you'll see Thomas appears to agree with Rose on the matter.

It doesn't look like the video tribute drama is going to end until the Feb. 11 matchup between the Celtics and Cavaliers is over with.

Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'

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Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Three Houston Rockets players entered the Los Angeles Clippers’ training room before being stopped by security but not before a profanity-laced exchange that’s sure to result in fines and possibly some suspensions.

Orlando’s Arron Afflalo threw a punch – and barely missed – hitting Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica which led to both players being ejected and for Afflalo will likely result in a suspension of some kind.

Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons got into it with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, resulting in both players being tossed and apparently leading to Simmons signaling to Lowry that they could continue having their “discussion” in the hallway.

That hallway encounter never happened (Lowry said he was there, Simmons said he didn’t see Lowry so you believe who you want to), but the fact that it was even a possibility speaks to this being one of the more bizarre weeks in recent memory when it comes to potential fighting in the league. 

And remember … it’s only freakin’ Wednesday!

I asked Boston’s Al Horford about this.

“It’s very, very bizarre,” said Horford, now in his 11th NBA season. “I don’t think I remember any period of time, (with) all this chippiness going on. You want to compete, you want to play hard; that’s fine. But all the extra stuff, I think needs to stop. At the end of the day you need to focus on basketball. We’re here to play.”

Horford added, “I’m sure the NBA will address those things and fix them.”

No one was shocked that things got a little testy in the Houston-Los Angeles Clippers game which was played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first time Chris Paul, now with the Rockets, returned to Los Angeles to face his former team. 

The Clippers won 113-102, a game filled with trash talk from both sides. But apparently the chatter soon turned to chippy play with hard fouls delivered and taken in the latter stages of play with a total of five technical fouls called, two of which were on Blake Griffin which is an automatic ejection. 

Talking trash gone bad was a factor in the Simmons-Lowry bruhaha with the Sixers emerging with the victory. 

And on Tuesday, Afflalo and Bjelica had already been assessed a technical for an earlier run-in. Soon after, there was a collision between the two which pissed off Afflalo who swung with great force at Bjelica’s face. 

“We’re professionals,” Horford said. “We can’t get caught up in that stuff.”

Horford plays around the basket and is no stranger to banging around with the big, bad angry bodies. 

But as much as there will be times when he’ll want to snap, Horford has consistently resisted the urge. 

“It’s hard; it’s hard,” he said. “But we have to remember what we play the game for; I play to win. I’m playing for my teammates and sometimes you need to take a step back before you do something you regret. That’s the way I look at it.”

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