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Irish Coffee: Jermaine O’Neal’s Celtics impact

Wake up with the Celtics [1] and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

On Feb. 1, when the Celtics began a two-month-plus stretch without either of the O’Neal “brothers,” if you had to put your life savings on which one would return first, how many people would’ve put money on Jermaine O’Neal [2]?

Not many, me included. I know I would’ve put my $47 on Shaquille O’Neal [3]. And, as Dale Arnold [4] might say, if you gave Doc Rivers [5] Sodium Pentothal, he’d probably admit that he would’ve rather had Shaq back first. But that’s not the case.

Jermaine O’Neal is returning to the Celtics lineup for the first time since Jan. 10, when his knee swelled to the point of no return. In 17 games this season, he had averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes.

So, what, exactly, can we expect from Jermaine O’Neal? If we can agree that all the Celtics need to replace Kendrick Perkins [6]‘ minutes are guys who can defend bigs, rebound the basketball and knock down open shots created by the Big Four, then J.O. can give you plenty. Not as much as Shaq, but it’s something, right?

Let’s start with defense. Here are the points per possession (PPP) and field-goal percentages allowed by Perkins, Shaq, J.O. and Nenad Krstic [7] on man-to-man defense in their limited time as Celtics this season:

In a limited sample size, Jermaine O’Neal actually gave the Celtics the best defense of all four guys. Even if he can give them 15 minutes a night, that might limit Krstic’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end. When Shaquille O’Neal returns [8], the C’s should finally have the defensive depth at center that can fill the void left by Perkins.

Now, let’s look at rebounding. Here are the rebounding rates — or the percentage of missed shots corraled by a player in his time on the floor — for those same bigs:

Jermaine O’Neal was not rebounding well for the Celtics, and it’s probably a stretch to believe a guy coming off a knee injury will improve in that area. Krstic has done an admirable job of replacing Perkins on the glass, and Shaq will provide further support.

Finally, let’s examine their ability to knock down shots around the basket. Here are the shooting percentages at the rim (within three feet) and from 3-9 feet for the four bigs:

As you can see, Jermaine O’Neal has been the C’s worst scoring option in the post among their starting centers. But given that Shaq and Krstic have both outperformed Krstic, the Celtics should be able to make up for J.O.’s offensive deficiencies.

Jermaine O’Neal gives the Celtics defensive depth in the post, but don’t expect his return to suddenly jumpstart an offense that’s struggled over the last few weeks.


Speaking of the Perkins trade, ESPN.com columnist Jackie MacMullan chatted with Celtics president [9] Danny Ainge about the deal and the guts that led to it. Ainge’s conclusion? “In the end, it’s all how it turns out that matters.”

All of MacMullan’s interviews are must-reads, and this is no different. The highlights:


Jermaine O’Neal isn’t the only veteran returning to the floor on Thursday night, when the Celtics visit the Spurs. While the C’s potentially faced a San Antonio lineup without Tony Parker [20], Manu Ginobili [21] and Tim Duncan [22], that hope is lost.

All three Spurs practiced on Wednesday, and all three could potentially play against the C’s, according to the San Antonio Express-News [23]. Here’s the report:

[Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich opted to keep half his cards close to his chest, saying only Parker and Antonio McDyess [24] — who joined the Big Three in skipping Monday’€™s loss to Portland — would be available against Boston.

Duncan and Ginobili are day-to-day, to be re-evaluated sometime before tipoff, but all signals seem to point to a full roster for a game that has hit the city limits of ‘€œmust-win’€ in the Spurs’€™ chase for a No. 1 playoff seed.


Over the last couple off days, Celtics captain Paul Pierce has stepped up his Truth on Health campaign, planning a luxury suite giveaway and logging a post on his blog.

To benefit the charity closest to his heart, Pierce is raffling off 12 tickets in his personal luxury suite for the regular-season finale against the Knicks on April 13 in the TD Garden. Tickets are $2, and you must buy at least five of them here [25]. The winner — who will also receive an autographed ball and $500 to spend — will be announced on April 11.

Meanwhile, here are the highlights from Pierce’s most recent blog post [26] about his failed NCAA [27] Tournament bracket:

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail tobrohrbach@weei.com [32] or a Twitter message to @brohrbach [33].)