Jermaine O'Neal entered the season as a rejuvenated, determined veteran who was ready to help the Celtics.
But here we are, less than a month into the season, and O'Neal finds himself ailing on the bench. Now, it looks like O'Neal is going to miss some significant time, according to Peter May of ESPNBoston.com.
The news on Jermaine O'Neal is not good. The Boston Celtics center might miss another two to three weeks, coach Doc Rivers said, due to ongoing left knee woes. O'Neal hasn't played since Nov. 8, when he logged nearly 11 minutes in the Celtics' 89-87 loss at Dallas. He had a second opinion while the Celtics were in Miami (he played for the Heat last year, so he was familiar with the doctors there) and was not with the team in Memphis on Saturday.
O'Neal has played in seven of the Celtics' 10 games, but has not looked comfortable at all in the 17 minutes he has played, averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.
That's a long ways off from the player who averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in 70 games for the Miami Heat last season.
Now, we all knew that the Celtics wouldn't be getting the phenomenal All-Star forward that was a cornerstone of the Pacers' dominance in the early 2000s. Even so, more was expected out of O'Neal than what the Celtics have seen through seven games.
With starting center Kendrick Perkins out until February, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal were supposed to be the one-two punch. Entering the season, Jermaine was slated to back up Shaquille, who has also been dinged up earlier this season.
Yet with Jermaine O'Neal out for the next several weeks, Celtics' coach Doc Rivers will be forced to give rookie seven footer Semih Erden more playing time. Erden has also played in seven games, averaging 31. points and 2.1 rebounds in 10 minutes. While Erden is a decent replacement, there's no question that Jermaine O'Neal is much better.
O'Neal's rehab is anticipated to take the reported two to three weeks, but you never know with a 32-year old big. For all we know, he could be out at least a month, if not more.
However, if and when O'Neal does return to full health, he will be a vital key to the Celtics' success. Not only can O'Neal backup Shaq, but he can also sub in for Kevin Garnett if the need be. Add Perkins to the mix, and the Celtics' would have some of the best big men in the game. And we haven't even mentioned Glen Davis yet.
Still, one thing's for sure. Jermaine O'Neal isn't doing anyone any good on the bench. The clock is ticking on the season, and more importantly, his career.