O’Neal says he was part of Heat’s plan
|07.14.10 at 4:59 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In meeting with the media on Wednesday, new Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal spoke about his former team, the Miami Heat, saying that he was aware that the plan was to reel in star free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh while also retaining Dwyane Wade. The Heat also wanted O’Neal back to team with the trio, but he instead took a two-year deal with the Celtics.
“I knew what the were trying to do, and I could have re-signed back with those guys, but it comes down to fit,” O’Neal said. “It comes down to personalities and style of play, and Boston has all that for me. It was the most important choice that I’ve made in my career.
“It was the first time I actually had the opportunity to even be a free agent in about 14 years, so it was very difficult, but I just felt like over the next two years I needed to be somewhere where the focus is strictly about winning now, not worrying about chemistry, not worrying about anything, just about coming in and helping the team win and doing my part of being involved in something good.”
As for having to worry about matching up against the Heat, O’Neal doesn’t seem overly concerned regarding who the top team in the Eastern Conference is.
“I don’t really look at it as an individual matchup,” O’Neal said. “Obviously they have a great tandem down there, but I feel like this team has the best team. ‘¦ I had a great time down in Miami, I had an opportunity to re-sign back with them, but I just thought that this is where I’m meant to be.”
O’Neal said that he liked the Celtics’ powerhouse over the potential one Miami would eventually form based on the way Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo have proven their ability to work together.
“Those guys, they have a ring already, but they want another one,” O’Neal said. “I don’t have a ring and I want one, so I felt like their hunger and their focus is at a different level. There were some other good teams out there that i really looked at that i thought could compete for the championship, but threes guys just came off an NBA finals appearance and obviously they’ve won one, so they know what it takes to get there.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge applauded the Heat for the job they’ve done, saying that though they still might make some more moves, the big pieces they’ve put in place already are substantial.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Ainge said. “They’ve put a terrific team together, but it doesn’t even matter what they do. Obviously [additional moves] could make a little bit of a difference, but the three guys that they’ve put together down there with Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, that’s a pretty solid team.”
Asked about the chemistry element that O’Neal previously referred to and how it might apply to the Heat, Ainge said: “Wining does amazing things to team chemistry.”