Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal followed up an impressive double-double vs. Kendrick Perkins and the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight with an unsolicited attack on his critics in the Celtics locker room.
“There’s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate from people that supposedly analyze the game,” said O’Neal. “To analyze the game you’ve got to know what position a team has players in. It’s easy to sit behind tables and say what you think, 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, whatever it is, I probably won’t even answer that anymore after this time.
“For the people out there wondering about production and me scoring, that’s not my role.”
O’Neal obviously had some motivation to make the comments he did, considering the love showered on Perkins this week and the subsequent backlash he’s heard on his own play. He’s also dead on: his scoring and overall statistics mean much less to the Celtics than the numbers and play of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, for example. Still, O’Neal was asked an innocuous question about tonight’s game, and it was clear that he had prepared his answer.
“My role has been said to be a defender,” said O’Neal. “To the people out there that are saying I’m struggling offensively, that’s not my concern … Judge me on how I get out on the pick-and-roll and help the guards stop penetration. Not scoring. I know that’s kind of been the M.O. for me throughout my career, especially in Indiana, but that’s not my role right now.
“If I’m not rebounding, I’m not blocking shots, I’m not getting on that perimeter and helping the guards, then we’ve got a conversation to have.”
— The Celtics played a video tribute to Perkins during the game’s first timeout.
“That was unbelievable,” said Perkins. “You know I really appreciate it. I say this time and time again, I really appreciate the whole city of Boston. The whole Celtics organization, just the way that they embrace me time and time again. Out of high school to who I develop as a player now, I just want to let them know I really appreciate it. They didn’t have to do it. It ain’t like they just put some nonsense together. They didn’t have to do it. I’m not taking it for granted. I want to let people know I greatly appreciate it.”
Perkins said Boston still holds a special place in his heart.
“I love Oklahoma, but just being here for eight years and winning a championship, it’s hard to replace,” said Perkins. “Mentally I was just out of it [tonight]. I didn’t know whether to shoot the ball, pass the ball, hug the guy. I ain’t know what to do. I’m just really glad its over. I’m just glad we play in two different conferences so I don’t have to keep going through this emotional breakdown.”