Archive for July, 2010

O’Neal on D&H: ‘I couldn’t think of a better place to play’

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The newest Celtic, Jermaine O’€™Neal called into the Dale & Holley show to field some questions on what it’€™s like to be a Celtic now, what happened to him in the playoffs last season, what he expects his new role to be and the impact of Doc Rivers and Ray Allen on him choosing Boston.

‘€œThat was something I was really interested in being involved with, that same nucleus they had last year and if they didn’€™t have it, then I don’€™t think they would have been as strong as they were last year,’€ O’€™Neal said.

‘€œIf [Doc] didn’€™t come back, it definitely wouldn’€™t even be an option. Ray coming back was the next question that I was asking Danny, were they going to try to re-sign him. They told me yes and I said, ‘€˜OK, let’€™s try to get this deal done and let’€™s start preparing to get this deal done next year.’€™ ‘€

Below are highlights of the interview. To listen to the complete interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On coming to Boston:

Yeah, it’€™s going to be fun. I’€™m excited about it and my family is excited about it. I’€™m coming down the stretch run of my career and I can’€™t think of a better way of ending it than with a championship ring.

On why he chose the Celtics:

I told myself coming into the summer that it wasn’€™t going to be about any money situations. God has been good to me and my family and He’€™s blessed us in so many different ways. One thing I’€™ve learned is that sometimes as players we take for granted that winning is certain. Obviously over the past three, four, or five years, that hasn’€™t happened [for me].

That hasn’€™t happened and I’€™ve been spoiled early in my career with Indiana where we had those really good teams and it was a really sad thing that it was going to happen consistently over [the course of] my career and whatever reason things happened, the business changed, the teams change and injuries happen and sometimes you find yourself on the outside looking in. Looking at those championship celebrations with confetti and champagne and hats, that’€™s something I haven’€™t been able to experience in my career and I told myself, I talked with my family and my wife and kids, we wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win next year.

I could have gotten long term deals for much more money, but it was about playing with a team that is just that, a team. A team that plays together, plays hard, just has the passion. The organization has the passion obviously, the city has the passion. I couldn’€™t think of a better place to play.

On Rajon Rondo selling the Celtics to him:

It’€™s funny because I’€™m not really interested in [phone] numbers I don’€™t know, and I just happened to answer the number that particular day and we had an extensive conversation and he really sold it. I said as a competitor playing against the Celtics over the years, I’€™ve admired what they’€™ve put together. I admire what the fans brought to the gym every night. I like what they’€™ve put together and what he said really was what I was looking for and it was more of about what they expected to do this upcoming season, what they expect from me, what they would expect from an organizational standpoint.

It went from Boston being with Dallas and Denver, those were the top three teams that were heading the list, to being the top team on the list. I was basically told in that conversation about other things. Keep in mind that he doesn’€™t really talk a lot, but I couldn’€™t really tell by the conversation because he led the conversation and he was really passionate about their focus and their plan to win a championship this year. (more…)

Ainge on D&C: Perk out until February

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called into the Dennis & Callahan show to discuss the offseason so far for the C’€™s. On the docket were many hot topics, including the signing of Jermaine O’€™Neal, pursuing several new players, the return of Doc Rivers and many of last year’€™s playoff team, and when Kendrick Perkins could be expected to return to the team.

‘€œIt’€™s projected that he’€™ll be back probably after the All-Star break, could be my guess, sometime in mid- to late February,’€ Ainge said. ‘€œWe’€™ll be very careful with Perk and not be in a rush to get him back, but I guess there’€™s a chance to get him back probably a little earlier, that’€™s probably realistic.’€

Highlights of the interview are below. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan show audio on demand page.

On the LeBron James sweepstakes and how he handled himself:

[I feel] the same thing everybody else feels. It was over the top, it was too much. I think he should have told the Cavaliers well beforehand what he was doing. I just think there were a lot of things that weren’€™t handled perfectly. It was not fun to watch and see. I didn’€™t really enjoy the dance show a day or two after either, celebrating in Miami.

I like the way the Celtics have done it and our players, like Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce], it’€™s hard to get them to even talk to the media after they sign new contracts.

On Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert‘€™s subsequent comments:

I think they were inappropriate and I don’€™t think that’€™s the right way to handle it either. [They'€™re] understandable, but not the right way at all.

On the Celtics’ prospects against the new Miami Heat:

No matter where LeBron was going to go he was going to be in the Eastern Conference and [his new team was] going to be really good, whether he was staying in Cleveland or New York, New Jersey. The team was going to be built around him and it’€™s going to be a great team regardless. Three of the top 10 players in the league, including two of the top three, that’€™s going to be a tough pill to handle. I think they are going to get a supporting cast that can help them win and I think that team’€™s the team to beat. (more…)

C’s make Pierce signing official

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Celtics announced Thursday that they re-signed captain Paul Pierce. No details were released, but previous reports have indicated the contract is worth $61 million over four years.

“Paul has been a cornerstone of our franchise for the last decade and we could not be more pleased that he is returning to the team,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement.

Pierce is the third-leading scorer in franchise history with 19,899 points, trailing only Larry Bird and John Havlicek. He averaged 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season and made his eighth All-Star team.

“I am very excited to be back in Boston,” Pierce said in the team’s statement. “I have always said that I would love to retire as a Celtic, and re-signing here will allow me to do that. I would like to thank Danny, Doc [Rivers], the ownership group and the rest of the organization. I’m thrilled that they kept the core intact and look forward to getting back on the parquet with my teammates so we can bring Banner 18 home to Boston.

Ainge: Tony Allen leaving ‘not a financial decision’

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

WALTHAM — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had plenty to talk about on Wednesday as he introduced center Jermaine O’Neal to the Boston media, but perhaps the most the most interesting topic touched on was swingman Tony Allen‘s defection to the Memphis Grizzlies for a three-year deal worth a reported $9.7 million.

In discussing the situation with reporters, Ainge indicated that the Celtics had hoped to bring Allen, one of their three 2004 first-round draft choices, back. He said that money was not a driving factor in Allen’s decision to leave.

“Things did work out for Tony, we had a good six years with Tony,” Ainge said when asked what didn’t work out in negotiations. “We wanted Tony back and we tried to get him. It wasn’t a financial decision, there were other decisions, so I think that’s a question you’ll have to ask Tony.”

In his six seasons with the Celtics, Allen averaged 7.2 points, 1.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 18.4 minutes and was a plus defender, often guarding the opposing team’s biggest offensive threat.

Asked to evaluate the offseason, Ainge likened making any comment now to saying how a game went while just at halftime. The C’s are looking to add five more players to give them a 14-man squad, but much of time in the near future will consist of waiting to see which players are still available after the big contracts are done being handed out. He also said he does not expect Rasheed Wallace to change his mind regarding retirement.

Ainge said that the Celtics still have needs at multiple positions, noting they are looking for help at center/power forward, backup point guard, as well as wings. He did say that he likes “unproven rookies” Semih Erden (a Turkish center) and Avery Bradley (the team’s first-round draft choice, a point guard), and that the team is in negotiations with Nate Robinson to hopefully continue to back up Rajon Rondo. Asked about Robinson, Ainge said he is a “guy we’re talking with, along with a slew of other free agents as well.”

Josh Howard was a name brought up in the session and Ainge did not deny the team’s interest, saying he would “rather not get into the people who we are pursuing” and that “there’s a long list of them, but he’s on that list.”

The 29th overall pick by the Mavericks in the 2003 draft, Howard has averaged 16.3 points, 1.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds in seven seasons. The small forward had spent his entire career in Dallas before being traded to the Wizards in February. He played in only four games for Washington before tearing his ACL, an injury he is still recovering from.

Now healthy, winning the priority for O’Neal

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

WALTHAM ‘€“ Jermaine O’€™Neal came clean on why he struggled so mightily against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs this past season. The new C’€™s center said he was kicked in the left ankle in a March 11 contest against the Knicks, which led to it being ‘€œextremely swollen.’€ He tried toughing it out in the playoffs, but the results weren’€™t pretty, as he average just 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds and saw the Heat fall in five games.

‘€œYou go out there, you’€™re telling your team, you’€™re telling your followers that you’€™re ready to play, and whatever excuse you have should be kept in the locker room, so I chose not to talk about it because it didn’€™t really matter,’€ O’€™Neal said. ‘€œI still felt like I could go out there and help the team. Unfortunately I wasn’€™t able to do it. It was just one of those things.’€

Both he and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that he is healthy, and O’€™Neal now looks forward to embracing a new environment in Boston as he enters his 15th season in the league.

‘€œOne thing I admired about the Boston Celtics team was the coaching and also the way the players played together, it was very selfless on the court,’€ O’€™Neal said. ‘€œThey compete at a very high level on both ends of the floor. They don’€™t really care who gets the credit for scoring or rebounding or whatever it may be, they just kind of play together and play to win.’€

O’€™Neal said he looked at the way Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett united in Boston for a chance at a first ring, and that his decision was strongly based on their line of thinking, saying, ‘€œI thought those guys [were] at a position in their career where I’€™m kind of at that same position.’€

With starting center Kendrick Perkins out for the time being with torn MCL and PCL ligaments, the popular line of thinking has been that O’Neal will be the starting center until whenever Perkins returns (sometime in early 2011, whether it be January of February) and that he will then spell both Perkins and Garnett in a reserve role with Glen Davis.

Given what O’Neal has been able to accomplish in his career statistically, it might be hard to imagine a six-time All-Star turning down other offers for a potential job off the bench. Still, despite coming close to averaging a double-double from 2000 to 2007, O’Neal is extremely content with his new role.

“It’€™s not about options, it’€™s about winning,” O’Neal said. “That’€™s what it really boils down to. I’€™m not at a point in my career where I need to worry about that. I’€™ve been on an Olympic team, I’€™ve had Nike campaigns, I’€™ve had All-Star games, All-NBA’€™s and I don’€™t have an NBA finals appearance, which is the most important thing to me and that’€™s what I really value the most right now.

“Sometimes as players we kind of take for granted that it’€™s going to keep happening. All those great years in Indiana, you couldn’€™t have told me that I would go five straight years of basically talking about ‘€“ going into camp ‘€“ talking about just making the playoffs. It’€™s a big difference when you come into camp talking about a championship run and talking about trying to make the first round.”

There could be a string of factors that could make the road bumpier than some would hope, whether it be keeping everyone happy, fighting off injuries, or dealing with O’Neal’s old team, now fully equipped with Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, but it’s quite clear the center is all smiles and glad to be in Boston.

Rondo the salesman

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

WALTHAM — After passing a physical that finalized a two-year free agent deal, Jermaine O’Neal said that Rajon Rondo was the most important person to sell him on the value of signing with the Celtics.

“I had some great conversations with Doc [Rivers], Danny [Ainge] and Paul [Pierce] and Rondo, and Rondo actually was probably the guy who sold it the most, and I had great conversations with all four guys but he really helped me understand where my fit would be,” O’Neal said. “I’m not concerned about shots, I’m not concerned about minutes. I’m not concerned about anything but winning. At the end of the day, you can build up individual goals, but your validation is whether you win or not.”

O’Neal also gave credit to Rasheed Wallace, who also sold him on the quality of the organization. O’Neal said he texted Wallace to see if he could convince him to come out of retirement. He said he hadn’t heard back but would be getting together with him soon.

O’Neal says he was part of Heat’s plan

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

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.”