ATLANTA — Jermaine O’Neal said Tuesday night in a phone interview that he agonized the past month on his decision to have surgery and is pondering a procedure that could end his career.
O’Neal will miss the rest of the season to repair the wrist but the injury was more serious that the organization anticipated. He will require either surgery to remove bone spurs or bone-fusion surgery that would reduce flexibility and perhaps erase any chances of an NBA return. He told the Globe he was angry about reports that he wanted to leave the Celtics and play for the Miami Heat.
“It was just a tough decision because I don’t think you guys understand how hard I worked from the knee surgery (last season) to get back,” he said. “I wanted to come back there and really play at a high level. It was quite emotional for me, I am not going to lie to you. I told the team when I got back from Dallas (where he sustained the injury) that I needed some time. I tried to do everything I could do to come back and the wrist didn’t respond. That’s what really bothered me about (rumors of me) going to Miami. (Team president) Danny (Ainge) never talked about that. It’s crazy that even came up any way. If I am not physically able to play for the Celtics, then why would Miami want me? Why would they want to sign me? That’s what bothered me the most because this is real to me.”
O’Neal revealed that he completely tore a ligament in his left wrist last season but refused surgery to play. That caused his bones to separate and when he landed on the wrist awkwardly on Feb. 20 taking a charge against the Dallas Mavericks, it caused major damage.
O’Neal said he would have no issue with being waived or bought out to create a roster spot for a healthy big man. “Whatever Danny needs. I love Danny Ainge. He has been fantastic with me.”
The Celtics center said he will meet with doctors next Wednesday to determine a course for the surgery and won’t decide whether to play again until the surgery is completed.
“This situation is not just about basketball,” he said. “We’re dealing with ailments at 33 years old with a 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son and something (basketball) I’ve been in love with since i was 8 years old. So it’s a lot of emotions going into that, when I put so much of trying to have a great year and the now the possibility of not playing again.”
O’Neal played in 49 games over the past two years and averaged 5 points and 5.4 rebounds in 25 games this season.