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Celtics notebook

O’Neal has knee surgery

Jermaine undergoes procedure; eyes April

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / February 5, 2011

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After delaying the decision as long as possible, exhausting all possible options outside of a surgery, Jermaine O’Neal had an arthroscopy performed on his left knee yesterday, forcing him to miss another 6-8 weeks.

O’Neal, signed by the Celtics in the offseason for two years with the midlevel exception, missed six weeks earlier in the season after initially feeling soreness. He returned in December, but was sidelined again two weeks later, bothered by pain in the surgically repaired knee. Thus far, the knee has kept him out of 32 games this season.

After seeing doctors in Miami and New York, along with team doctors, and getting as many opinions as possible to avoid surgery, O’Neal decided to sit out and rest the knee, in hopes that the swelling would subside. But it didn’t respond the way he wanted.

“Even without activity, the swelling was still there and that’s when he decided to change the course of the game plan,’’ said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. after the Celtics’ 101-97 loss to the Mavericks. “He just has some arthritis and some loose particles in there, and that was the reason Dr. [Brian] McKeon wanted to go in there and clean it out.

“[The surgery] was exactly what [McKeon] thought and he thought that was the best solution from the beginning. It just took Jermaine a little while to get on board with that.’’

Although the procedure will allow him to play again this season, the Celtics expect his knee troubles to persist. O’Neal played 70 games for Miami last season, looking healthy after being plagued by injuries in recent seasons. Ainge said that since the summer, in the four or five MRIs that have been taken on O’Neal’s knee, his condition has worsened.

“Whenever you have arthritis in your knee and there’s bone-on-bone there’s a long-term issue there, and this surgery was not anything to fix him long term,’’ Ainge said.

When O’Neal was weighing his decision about the surgery, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he was concerned that any operation would essentially mean O’Neal was out for the season. By the beginning of April, there would be just eight games left before the playoffs.

Last night, Rivers was glad that O’Neal had the operation, but said he wished it had come sooner.

“I thought it was the right decision,’’ Rivers said. “I wish he had moved a little earlier on it, but I think JO had to make sure he wanted to do it. He exhausted every avenue, which I thought he should have done, because it’s a tough decision.’’

Still, Ainge insisted that O’Neal would be able to return in time to contribute.

“He really wants to contribute to the team in the playoffs and we think he can,’’ Ainge said. “If he can get healthy, he’s shown in the short time he’s been with us and in training camp how good he can be defensively.’’

High honors Sending four players to the All-Star Game is one thing, but for Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett to be appointed based on the coaches’ voting reaffirmed how much they deserve to be there, Rivers said.

“I think they’re saying that they’re basically honoring guys that play team basketball, and I love that,’’ said Rivers, coach of the Eastern Conference team.

Allen wasn’t the least bit concerned about how much he’d play.

“I don’t want Doc to worry about playing me or playing long minutes,’’ Allen said. “I’m not going to be upset if he doesn’t play me, like guys have been in the past. It’s great to be there, having fun, and being around all the other guys, and not worrying about clawing at each other’s throats, being among so many different fans and celebrities.

“I think the fourth quarter will dictate kind of how the game will come down. It’s not like deciding home-court advantage in the Finals; then I would be like, ‘I want to be in the game.’ ’’

Allen taking a shot Having been challenged by the reigning 3-point champion (Pierce), Allen entered himself in this year’s contest during All-Star Weekend.

The NBA won’t confirm that Allen or Pierce will be in the contest, a spokesman said, “until the announcement.’’

“I’m up for the challenge,’’ Allen said. “I’m up for any challenge. When would you ever think I would back down from shooting?’’

Frank Dell’apa of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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