LAS VEGAS — Working towards making a comeback after undergoing Orthokine therapy on both knees in Germany, Jermaine O’Neal said it was difficult to accept his limited role in his the Celtics offense the past two seasons.
O’Neal worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Impact Basketball Academy and spoke with the Globe following the session.
“I had a fantastic time in Boston with the city, the fans were phenomenal, the organization was phenomenal, I just don’t know if the playing situation was right to be quite honest,” said O’Neal, who said his surgically repaired wrist is ’95 percent’. “The hardest thing for me was to not be able to do some of the things I have been quite comfortable with doing all my life. I accepted the challenge. I accepted the role. (I didn’t want) 10 shots a game, but it was hard to be told not to worry about (scoring).”
After averaging at least 10.6 shots per game – and a career-best 19.4 in 2004-05 – for 12 consecutive seasons, O’Neal attempted 4.5 in 2010-11 and 4.8 in ’11-12.
“When I was asked about (offense), I tried to be as professional about it as possible but it’s hard,” he said. “You put any player in that position and ask them how that’s going to pan out for them; it’s hard mentally because you’re fighting against yourself every single day. And it’s not like you’re getting the reps, even in practice, because they’re gonna stay away from that in practice because they don’t want you to start leaning towards that in games. It was really rough. The things that kept me going was the guys on that team, (team president of basketball operations) Danny Ainge and just the passion of that city. No one wants it to end the way it ended, but it did. I was never really healthy mentally.
“It took everything in my mind, body and soul to be professional about it. When that’s said to you in front of a team, it bothers you.”
The Celtics were 95-53 in O’Neal’s two seasons in Boston and 24-25 in games he played.
When contacted by the Globe, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said: “I’m disappointed that he didn’t enjoy his Celtics experience. Hopefully he can find somewhere where they’ll let him be involved in the offense.”
O’Neal carved a niche defensively with the Celtics by taking charges and grabbing rebounds but his first season was cut short by left knee surgery. And a hard fall taking a charge from Dallas’ Dominique Jones ended his final year because of a damaged wrist.
“I don’t have regrets for that because I had a great time,” he said. “I had a great time with the guys that were out there, it helped me get from day to day. And Danny Ainge, I can’t speak enough about his position as president of the team.
“Listen, I don’t want to confuse anybody doing this interview. I’m not saying by any means I can go for 18, 20 a night. But I know I’m still good enough to go for 20 on any given night, if given the opportunity. I wasn’t given the opportunity post up at all. Not even in practice.”