“We’re just going to keep adding minutes to him, and he’ll be ready by the first game,” Rivers said.
In his short stint on the floor, O’Neal’s weak-side shot-blocking and help defense were on full display (he swatted three shots). When O’Neal was in his prime in Indiana, the Pacers were a top five defensive team three straight seasons and his experience there, he said, helps him with the defensive-minded Celtics.
“I can cover a lot of ground fairly fast on the back end of the defense,” O’Neal said. “As big guys, if you’re a good defender, you can kind of see the play develop. So, you guard your man and guard other areas, too. So I’ve always been very good at that, especially coming off the ball and blocking shots, coming weak-side blocking shots. So that aspect has been fairly easy for me.”
O’Neal didn’t take a shot in his debut, and he said he wants to find a comfort level offensively. But Rivers said O’Neal’s offense was the least of his concerns.
“We didn’t bring Jermaine in here to be a great offensive player,” Rivers said. “I mean he’s going to get what he gets. We brought him in here to be a great defensive player and I think that’s what he’s going to be. That’s why we went out and got him. He’s always been a great weak-side shot-blocker and a weak-side help defender. That’s one of the stronger points to our defense, so we thought it would be a natural fit.”