WALTHAM, Mass. — Jermaine O'Neal missed his 21st game of the season on Wednesday night as the Celtics beat the Sacramento Kings, and on Thursday morning he admitted in a radio interview that midseason surgery might be necessary for his chronic knee pain.
By Thursday afternoon, O'Neal's coach shared his thoughts and tentatively concurred with the surgery rumor.
"I don't know yet," Doc Rivers said after the Celtics' practice Thursday in Waltham. "I know they did an MRI, and they actually have the results, but I haven't checked yet. Honestly, I think my guess is that they'll have to do something. I don't know that, but my guess is they'll probably have to do something."
Rivers, of course, means surgery. O'Neal's knee troubles have been a constant problem throughout his time as a Celtic. The 32-year-old big man missed four preseason games back in October, he sat out nearly seven weeks earlier in the regular season, and now the knee is acting up again.
It now appears that surgery is the answer. The Celtics are seriously strapped for big-man depth at the moment — Kevin Garnett is still out, Kendrick Perkins isn't ready to return and Semih Erden missed a practice this week due to a groin pull. Rivers would love to keep O'Neal available at all costs, but that may no longer be possible.
Rivers was also asked Thursday about the possibility of bringing in outside help to add to the team's big man depth, but the coach said that because the roster is maxed out at 15 players, there's currently no room.