Shared Experience For O'Neal, Daniels in Boston

by Jeff Tzucker

Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Shared Experience For O'Neal, Daniels in Boston

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

December 28, 2010

Doc Rivers admits he’s hard on Jermaine O’Neal about accepting his new status as a role-player, and he’s equally tough on Marquis Daniels about maintaining a consistent focus.

So does that mean Boston is not necessarily nirvana for the two ex-Pacers?

“It’s nirvana,” said the Celtics’ head coach, “if you want to win.”

Therein lies the primary reason both players wound up in Boston.

O’Neal, now, 32, signed with the Celtics after a season-and-a-half in Miami, in part as a stopgap until regular starting center Kendrick Perkins recovers from surgery on his right knee.

But he’s had his own issues with a sore left knee that has limited him to just eight games. He recently returned to action after missing more than six weeks, and so now can get on with adjusting from centerpiece to accessory.

Adjusting to role-player status a challenge for J.O.

“Jermaine is a role player and he’s never been that so we’re hard on him about that,” said Rivers. “He wants to accept that role but he’s never done it. He’s not used to not getting the ball. I told him ‘I could care less if you ever take a shot. Your job here is to block shots, take charges and be a defensive player and if you’re willing to buy into that job you can help us do something special. If you’re not willing to buy into that job then you don’t help us.’

“We’ve got enough scoring. The first thing for him is to get healthy and the second thing is to get used to that role.”

Though he knew the deal when he signed with the Celtics, O’Neal won’t pretend it’s been a challenging adjustment.

“All my life since little league I’ve been asked to score,” he said. “It’s a lot different here because we don’t necessarily need scoring from me. We need more of a defensive presence, rebounding, control the paint while I’m in there, help set the tempo defensively.

“It is probably the biggest challenge I’ve had, to be honest, and it’s a work in progress. We have a great team, I knew what the task was before I signed and I’m comfortable with it.”

As he ponders the final seasons of his career, O’Neal has admitted he’d like the opportunity to retire as a member of the Pacers. His name dots the franchise record book, ranking fifth in scoring average (18.6) and points (9,580), first in blocked shots (1,245), and third in rebound average (9.6).

“It’s no more than right to do it in the place where I have so many memories, where so much happened to me, where I have so many relationships,” O’Neal said. “You just feel a part.

“I went out to dinner yesterday and went over to my house and in my neighborhood, the people, it was almost like I didn’t leave. That’s the relationship I feel I have with the city. Obviously things didn’t end the way we wanted them to end, as far as reaching our ultimate goal but it was a new start that I feel like both parties needed.”

Healthy Daniels a fixture with Celtics' second unit

Daniels battled injury problems last season but has played every game this year, averaging 19.5 minutes, 5.2 points and 2.4 rebounds. Much more used to playing a background role, Daniels has fit in well with the Boston second unit.

“We get on ‘Quise about maintaining focus every night,” said Rivers. “He tends to go up and down and that’s what he’s done throughout his career and we’re hard on him here about that because a bad game for us because of lack of focus could cost us a playoff position.”

Daniels averaged 9.6 points in 173 games with the Pacers from 2006-09, signing with the Celtics prior to the 2009-10 season.

“There’s a lot of guys here that are going to be future Hall of Famers and that’s a blessing in itself to be able to say you played with guys like that – Paul (Pierce), Ray (Allen), K.G. (Kevin Garnett), Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal), Jermaine, (Rajon) Rondo, those guys – so it’s a good situation but I had some great teammates (in Indiana), as well.

“It’s part of our situation, the things we’ve got going. It’s a bigger picture. You’ve got to buy into the system. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to move forward, take less minutes, less money to try to win a championship.”

Impressed by Pacers' improvement

The current Pacers have captured the Celtics’ attention. Rivers likes the improved defense and increased reflection of Coach Jim O’Brien’s personality.

“They’re so much better,” Rivers said. “Jimmy has them playing hard, they’re executing offensively. Defensively is where they made their biggest change and you can see it. They’re a good, hard-nosed defensive team now. They went in that one stretch a couple of years ago where they were almost trying to outscore guys and now to me they’re more like Jimmy again and you can see that on the floor in the way they play.

“And, quite honestly, they’re healthy for the most part. They’ve had a three-year stretch where you can’t have as many injuries as they’ve had so he has a chance to actually coach his team for the first time in awhile.”

Daniels is impressed by the burgeoning collection of young talent surrounding Danny Granger.

“Coach O’Brien has them playing hard and the talent level is there,” he said. “Danny is improving every day, Brandon (Rush)’s playing better, (James) Posey’s a great addition for them as well as (Darren) Collison. All those guys, they’re doing real good.”

O’Neal admits a more distant view of the Pacers but what he has seen, he has liked.

“I see that they’ve evolved and become a team with a lot of nice young pieces that they keep adding every year, so they’re going in that direction,” he said. “Have they totally gotten there? I’m not sure because I’m not there every day but it looks that way from the outside looking in.”

Lockers side by side on the home and the road, and not just because they were jersey numbers 7 and 8, O’Neal and Daniels share more in Boston than their past with the Pacers.

They are on a quest to join the brotherhood of the ring.