The Celtics formally introduced their Jermaine O’Neal late this afternoon after running him through a physical. O’Neal said that of all the offers he could have taken — Denver, Dallas and Miami were all options, he said — the Celtics seemed like the best place for him to win immediately. He was courted by the usual suspects: Celtics president Danny Ainge, head coach Doc Rivers, team captain Paul Pierce and team politician Ray Allen. But he said the player that made the biggest sell was Rajon Rondo, who even last night called and invited him out to dinner as he got settled into his new city.
Here are some of the highlights from this afternoon’s press conference.
On why he chose Boston:
Obviously I’ve had a lot of great years meeting against these guys. I know what this city represents. I know what this organization represents. I know what the guys on that court represent. When I was making my decision, the conversation I was having with my family was, “What gives me the best opportunity to win next year?” When I looked at the teams, it came down to some very good teams. But I thought that one thing I admired about the Boston Celtics’ team was the coaching and just the way the players played together and were very selfless on the court.
On his first-round series against the Celtics:
I got kicked. It was the New York game maybe two weeks before the season was over. My ankle was extremely swollen – the left one – and to me when you suit up and you go out there. You’re telling your team and your followers that you’re ready to play. Whatever excuses you have should be kept in the locker room, so I chose not to talk about it because it didn’t really matter. I still felt like I could go out there and help the team, and unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. That’s just one of those things.
On filling in for Kendrick Perkins:
When he comes back, it’s his position to have. I’m just here to do my job. I’m not trying to step on anybody’s feet. I’m not trying to do anything to cause any issues. I’m here to win. That’s just really what it boils down to. There were a couple situations out there, where I talked to teams and I probably wouldn’t have wanted to back up anybody. But this situation is proven, and why come in and try to mess up something that’s already proven.
On the meniscus tear that cost him significant chunks of his career:
Obviously you guys know that we had some tough times out there away from basketball. I tore my meniscus. I felt like the team was struggling so bad and the city needed something positive and I continued to play on my meniscus. I played on my meniscus for two years and it gradually got worse and I ended up having surgery and tried to get back quickly and it didn’t work out very well.
Talking to friend and former teammate Rasheed Wallace:
I’m actually going to see him before I get out of town. He had a lot of great things to say about the organization. That was kind of the selling point too. Him coming in and him actually being here for a year and understanding the situation, the scenario, the chemistry.
I shot him a text and told him to come back one more year. He didn’t respond.