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Irish Coffee: Celtics’ Jermaine O’Neal gets defensive

01.17.12 at 12:37 pm ET

In the aftermath of his first double-double of the season, coming in his team’s fifth straight loss, Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal took his time inserting his jumbo diamond earrings and slipping into his brown leather jacket — back turned to the media gathered around his locker.

When O’Neal finally turned, he fielded the first question and took a long sip of water before addressing “so-called analysts” critical of his offensive production: “The people out there that’s wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role. My role has been given to me, and my role has been said to be a defender.”

Judging by the tone of his voice, the criticism has clearly irked O’Neal in recent days. The 15-year veteran no longer wants to be judged on his 13 previous seasons as a double-digit scorer, but rather on the new role Celtics coach Doc Rivers has carved out for him: Namely, rebounding and defense. Coincidentally or not, JO picked one of his best offensive nights of the season (12 PTS, 5-11 FG) to voice his opinion.

His plea was more of a decree, and here’s the rest of O’Neal’s I-Got-A-Role Address.

    I think there’s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate, by people who supposedly analyze the game. If you analyze the game, you’ve got to know what position the team has players in. It’s easy to sit behind tables and say what you think is going on, but the fact of the matter is, with me here, Doc has given his role.

    So, all the debate about whether I score, if I score, shots, whatever it is, I probably won’t even answer that anymore after this time.

    So, the people out there that are wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role. My role has been given to me, and my role has been said to be a defender and not offensively.

    So, the people out there that are saying that I’m struggling offensively, that’s not my concern. I think I’m in the top 10 in blocks, I’m probably leading the NBA in charges as a center and I’m starting to get my legs back as far as rebounding and getting my timing and all that. That’s my concern, so if you judge me, judge me on that. Judge me on how I get out on the pick and roll and help the guards stop penetration. Judge me on how I step up on penetration, that type of thing.

    But, this debate about my production and my scoring — I know that’s kind of been an M.O. for me during my career, especially in Indiana where I was a scorer — that’s not my position right now. My preference is probably to not even speak about that anymore.

    If I’m not rebounding, I’m not blocking shots, I’m not taking charges, I’m not getting on the perimeter and helping the guards, then we have a conversation to have. That’s just something I think people should know, because so-called analysts analyze, but they don’t analyze what teams are actually giving us. We have a job. We have a role.

    To give people an example of what I’m talking about, every team has a system. Some teams have a free-flowing system, where everybody can kind of do what they want to do on the offensive end and be involved. This system here is more about your role and what you should do. You’re given a role here. It’s a little bit different from what I’m used to, but I accept that role with open arms. Whatever that is, I accept that, and I just want to move forward.

    We’re in a hell of a slump right now, and that’s my focus — trying to help this team get out of a four- or five-game [losing streak]. I don’t even know what it is right now. I’m kind of lost in that mode, but let’s just get back to winning.

    It’s just easy to pick apart a team when you’re losing. That’s the easiest thing, but for us we believe that we’re not far away. I think tonight was a lot better game that we played, actually, in the four- or five-game losing streak, from start to finish. It’s just those two- or three-minute binges of turning the ball over that’s really hurting us. If we clean that up, I think we win these games.

For the record, according to, the roll man has taken 11 shots against O’Neal in pick-and-roll situations, scoring eight times (72.7 FG%). JO’s 1.64 blocks per game rank 13th among NBA blocked shot leaders, just 0.05 shy of DeMarcus Cousins in 10th place. His 14.4 percent rebound rate is his highest since grabbing 15.5 percent of available boards during the tail end of his Pacers prime in 2007. And the NBA doesn’t maintain official charge stats, but O’Neal has been surprisingly good in that regard this season.

Nobody expects O’Neal to revert to the 20-point scorer he was for a six-season stretch in Indiana, but O’Neal’s 39.3 percent field-goal percentage is the lowest of his career. Away from the rim, where he’s shooting 59.1 percent, JO is making just 30.6 percent of his attempts. While his focus on defending/rebounding might limit his field goal attempts, that’s no excuse for poor shooting.

But that’s coming from a so-called analyst judging from behind a table.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Indiana Pacers, Jermaine O'Neal
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