Shaq Injury Could Spark Jermaine O'Neal

WALTHAM, Mass. - In the case of Boston’s O’Neal brothers, as Doc Rivers likes to call them, one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

Shaquille O’Neal, who has started all three games for Boston this season, will likely miss Tuesday night’s game in Detroit with a bruised knee that was suffered during a collision with Amar’e Stoudemire Friday night. That means the man who sports the same names as Shaq on the front and back of his jersey – Jermaine O’Neal – will get an opportunity to return to the lineup as a starter against the Pistons.

The two O’Neals were the biggest offseason acquisitions for the Celtics, but they’ve both experienced numerous injuries early on in the season. Jermaine O’Neal, in particular, has dealt with nagging injuries for the past few weeks, a situation he claims to be going through for the first time in his career.

In regard to the recent string of injuries, Jermaine O’Neal said, “It’s just been one thing after another, and it’s been probably the only span of my career where I’ve dealt with multiple issues in consecutive weeks.

“It’s been challenging, obviously. You know the hamstring, then the back a little bit, the wrist, now the knee. So it’s been extremely disappointing for me so far but obviously trials and tribulations will make you stronger. You gotta take that as in, you never can be successful if you don’t fail.”

With 79 games remaining on the regular season schedule, using the word “fail” is probably a bit of an overstatement, but Jermaine knows that to this point he hasn’t delivered on expectations.

“I know the people that [were] happy about me being here aren’t happy quite yet with what they’ve seen,” O’Neal said before continuing on to say matter of factly, “but I can guarantee that before the year is over with they’ll be really happy with my play.”

Tuesday’s game in Detroit will be a big step in his pursuit of that type of play, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, both for him personally and for the Celtics as a whole.

With Kendrick Perkins still recovering from offseason knee surgery and the C’s being reluctant to toss Semih Erden onto the court with his sore shoulder, it’s clear that the team’s frontline is a bit thin at the moment. With Shaq temporarily being added to that injury list, Jermaine O’Neal’s availability is that much more critical.

For him personally, the ability to play when Shaq isn’t in the lineup is monumental. Jermaine O’Neal has played only 25 total minutes this season and hasn’t been able to establish any form of rhythm or endurance. That’s beginning to change, because the minutes Shaq misses out on during practices and tomorrow’s game will fall directly into the other O’Neal’s lap.

“I haven’t been able to [play extended minutes], even in the games I’ve played,” Jermaine O’Neal said. “You know, one game I fouled out in probably the quickest time period of my career, including little league. But I think [that] playing extended minutes is going to get my comfort level back.”

And so will the help of his teammates, whom the big man doesn’t want to let down.

“We have a great group of guys, and they’re really, really trying to get me going,” he said. “They’ve really been looking for me on the low post, looking for me on the pick and pops. I’m really putting that much added pressure on myself, because obviously I want to do well for this organization, for this city, but even more for these guys.”

If Jermaine O’Neal can handle that pressure and things begin to click for him during Tuesday night’s matchup with the Pistons, it may not be the case of one man’s loss being only one man’s gain after all - it may wind up being an enormous gain for the entire team. Jermaine O'Neal guarantees that he will regain his productiveness by the end of the season, but we may only have to wait until Tuesday night.