Celtics

Jermaine O'Neal plans to return next season

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Jermaine O'Neal plans to return next season

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Following the Boston Celtics' Game 5 loss at Miami last month, Jermaine O'Neal was down, dejected and all but ready to call it a career.

But after a few weeks away from the game, O'Neal said that passion and drive to win a championship is still there.

In fact, considering how injury-riddled he was last season, the desire to win a title is even greater now.

"I have a lot I can still give to this team," O'Neal told CSNNE.com in a phone interview.

And he'll get that opportunity next season, with O'Neal informing the C's that he does in fact plan to return for the final year of the two-year, 12 million contract he signed last summer.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, confirmed to CSNNE.com on Wednesday that O'Neal has in fact informed him of his desire to return.

"Jermaine gave us a great lift near the end of the season, especially defensively," Ainge said. "And we need him. I think he has a lot more to offer us."

The need for O'Neal is even greater with the Celtics' other O'Neal -- Shaquille -- announcing his retirement on Wednesday.

"We did it," O'Neal said via video on the website, Tout.com. "Nineteen years, baby. I thank you very much. That's why I'm telling you first. I'm about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon."

Jermaine O'Neal was on the road traveling when a reporter told him about Shaq retiring, an announcement that had nothing to do with his decision to return to Boston.

When the season ended, all indications were that O'Neal would have to have surgery on his left wrist after suffering a spill in Game 1 of the New York Knicks series.

O'Neal said surgery would have sidelined him for at least four months. Even with a lockout pushing the start of the season back, he knew his conditioning would once again be an issue upon his return and in many ways, he would have the same problems that he experienced this past season.

While surgery on the wrist will have to be done "at some point in my life," O'Neal said a battery of tests in recent weeks on the wrist have come back positive.

The instant connection he felt with veterans such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, O'Neal admits also played a factor in his decision to play one more season.

"I know how competitive those guys are, and I know they still believe they can win another championship," O'Neal said. "I feel the same way."

In his first season with the Celtics, O'Neal averaged 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds -- numbers he had registered since he was an end-of-the-bench youngster in Portland during the late 1990s.

But after returning from mid-season surgery on his left knee, O'Neal showed flashes of being able to provide more than just a presence defensively.

Now that he has a year in head coach Doc Rivers' system behind him, he hopes to pick up where he left off.

"It takes time to get to know players, to trust players. I understand that," O'Neal said. "I think these guys know me better, and now that I'm healthy again, they can trust that I can do a lot of the things they've seen me do over the years. I'm excited about the opportunity to come back and get after it again."

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

Stats: Jayson Tatum is pretty much Larry Bird

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Stats: Jayson Tatum is pretty much Larry Bird

Stop comparing Jayson Tatum to Paul Pierce. Turns out he's Larry Bird. Numbers don't lie.

In posting 14 points and 10 rebounds, Tatum became the first Celtics player to notch a double-double in his NBA debut since Larry Bird in 1979. Numbers also suggest that Bird went on to be very good, so that pretty much settles it. You can't just accept the numbers that say Bird was great and ignore the numbers that say Jayson Tatum is Larry Bird. You've got to accept all the numbers. Cherry-picking certain stats for your argument is what Mike Felger does. 

Tatum, who was the apple of Danny Ainge’s eye in the draft when he traded down from the first overall pick to the third spot, finished third on the C’s in scoring in Tuesday’s loss to the Cavs. Jaylen Brown led the way with a career-high 25 points, while Kyrie Irving posted 24.

Shorthanded Celtics fall short in 102-99 loss to Cavs

Shorthanded Celtics fall short in 102-99 loss to Cavs

CLEVELAND – Adversity has been a given with the Boston Celtics, so why would the season opener be any different? 

Despite being without their prized free agent signing in the offseason for all but the first five minutes against Cleveland, the Celtics gave themselves a chance to win down the stretch only to come up short in a 102-99 loss.

Boston led in the fourth only for LeBron James to score a go-ahead basket to make it 99-98 and then force a Celtics turnover seconds later.

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Following a time-out with 1:04 to play, Kevin Love hit a 3-pointer with 46.3 seconds to play to make it a 102-98 game.

The loss certainly hurts, but that pales in comparison to what losing Gordon Hayward for most if not all of this season, means to the Celtics after Hayward went down with fractured left ankle injury in the first quarter.

With the Celtics ahead 12-9, Kyrie Irving saw Hayward sprinting towards the rim and threw him an alley-oop pass.

LeBron James slid over and leaped to try and deflect it, which threw Hayward off balance in mid-air.

But Hayward didn’t land cleanly because ex-Celtic Jae Crowder, who was defending him on the play, made contact with Hayward’s lower body that resulted in an awkward landing for Hayward.

Video replays showed how contorted Hayward’s left ankle was, the kind of gruesome image that was in some ways reminiscent to the knee injury that derailed the career of Shaun Livingston.
 
While Livingston eventually returned to the floor and won a pair of NBA titles with the Golden State Warriors, but he was never the same player afterwards.
 
It’s far too soon to say exactly how Hayward’s injury will impact him this season, let alone for his career. 
 
But there is no mistaking seeing him go down the way he did, clearly rattled the Celtics and for that matter, the NBA family. 
 
Current and former NBA players took to social media offering of prayers of healing for Hayward, who was named to his first NBA All-Star team last season and signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics this summer. 
 
As for the actual game, the Cavaliers steadily pulled away in the second quarter and remained in control for most of the second half in a victory that certainly had to feel a bit shallow.
 
It wasn’t because the Celtics were undermanned without Hayward, but more important, because he’s part of the NBA family and regardless of how competitive players are, they never, ever like to see one of their own go down with such a devastating injury. 
 
Moments after Hayward went down, the looks of disappointment and pain were apparent. Inside the Celtics huddle, you saw Kyrie Irving’s head in the shoulder of a teammate.
 
Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas, now with the Cavs, was inside the Cavaliers locker room which is where they took Hayward initially. 
 
When Thomas left, he nodded, and shook his head, saddened by what he saw in the locker room. 
 
Despite the pain that all the Celtics were in following Hayward’s injury, there was still a game that had to be played. 
 
And anything less than their best against the defending Eastern Conference champions, would make for a long night. 
 
But the Celtics showed a resiliency in the third quarter that saw them climb back into things and made it a relatively close game. 
 
Trailing 54-38 at the half, Boston tied the game at 69 following a Marcus Smart free throw, followed by a go-ahead basket by Smart that put Boston on top 71-69. 
 
However, the Cavs ended the quarter with a 3-pointer by Derrick Rose which put them ahead 72-71 going into the fourth, an envious position for the Celtics all things considered. 
 
Even if the Celtics had been whole with Hayward, defeating the Cavs was going to be an extremely tall task.
 
They have after all, been to the NBA Finals each of the last three seasons and are the odds-on favorite to get back there for a fourth straight year. 
 
But the Celtics lost more than a key player when Hayward went down. 
 
They lost their focus, that intangible edge to their team that was supposed to be one of their strengths against a Cleveland team that has plenty of firepower and weapons of its own. 
 
The good news for both teams is that regardless of who came out on top, there are lessons to be learned for both teams. 
 
Unfortunately for the Celtics, those lessons going forward are likely to come about without Hayward in the lineup for some time. 

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