Celtics Give Jermaine O’Neal Opportunity to Finally Win It All


July 15, 2010

Celtics Give Jermaine O'Neal Opportunity to Finally Win It All It's now official — Jermaine O'Neal is a Boston Celtic.

Time to see what he can do.

O'Neal signed a two-year contract at the midlevel exception Wednesday, meaning he'll make about $12 million between now and the summer of 2012. For their money, the Celtics are getting a 6-foot-11 beast of a low-post presence, a suitable fill-in for the injured Kendrick Perkins and a solid bench role player, once Perkins returns.

O'Neal is a 14-year veteran, an alum of the Blazers, Pacers, Raptors and most recently the Miami Heat, whom the Celtics eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this spring. Drafted straight out of high school in 1996, he was once the youngest player ever to take the floor in an NBA game; he's now a grizzled 31-year-old with a lot of mileage on him.

A decade ago, when he was suiting up alongside Jalen Rose and later Ron Artest in Indiana, he was a walking double-double. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for the 2003-04 Pacers team that won 61 games and lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual champion Pistons.

O'Neal was once a statistical freak. He's not that guy anymore, but he's a modest role player that still has plenty to contribute to the Celtics.

He will be the opening night starter at center for Doc Rivers this fall. He's not going to be a scoring machine, but then again, neither is Perkins. O'Neal is going to patrol the paint, protect the rim and use his length and his energy to alter shots and restrict passing lanes. He's going to give the Celtics just enough defense and rebounding to tide them over until Perk gets back this winter.

Perhaps the most important thing O'Neal can offer the Celtics is his commitment to teamwork. The guy knows his role — when Perk returns, it's back to the bench. O'Neal may have the bigger paycheck, but starting center in Boston is Perk's job to lose.

O'Neal will be 32 by the time the season opens, and he's still never won a championship. At this point in his career, he's got his priorities straight: he wants to win and he'll do whatever it takes to move closer to that goal.

That's why he's here in Boston in the first place. He could have chosen San Antonio, he could have chosen Dallas.

But no — O'Neal is a Celtic, and he's ready to compete for a championship. He knows what he wants, and come this fall, he'll be ready to get after it.

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