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Jermaine O’Neal Undergoes Surgery….. And Loses The Benefit Of The Doubt

The Celtics had just finished up a hard fought loss to the Dallas Mavericks as I headed back towards the media room to start

C's Fans Won't Be Seeing This Anytime Soon

working on my game story. Word spread quickly however, that none other than Danny Ainge would be speaking at the podium in mere minutes. I hustled to grab my recorder and walked briskly down to the press conference.

You see, Danny doesn’t hold press conferences too often, especially after tight losses. Something was up and it had to be fairly big, we all just weren’t quite sure what it was yet. Could the team have made a trade? Highly unlikely. I sat next to Rich Levine of CSNNE.com, discussing the possibilities. After about 30 seconds of conversation, the topic of the conference appeared clear.


Would it be that Jermaine was being shut down for the year? And if so, would there be a buyout? The possibilities raced through my head, but nothing prepared me for the disturbing tidbit Danny openly admitted to us about three minutes into the conference.

Things started out innocently enough however as Ainge began things with an opening statement.

“The last time we talked Jermaine was not getting surgery and didn’t respond like we had hoped for the first 4 or 5 days of that. Thus we reconsidered and he had a left knee arthroscopy today. and had his left knee cleaned out. We’re not sure about a time frame. Our best guess is six to eight weeks. Surgery went fine and we’re hoping that alleviates the swelling that he keeps getting with extra activity. So we’re hopeful that will fix that.”

Fair enough. They tried the rest method and it didn’t work so they went with plan B. Clearly, not an ideal situation, but obviously the best one for the time being. It wasn’t Jermaine’s fault they didn’t go with surgery right off the bat….right? RIGHT?!?

WRONG. The answer began to seep out as Danny Ainge answered a question about just exactly what they found in O’Neal’s knee during the procedure:

“He just has some arthritis and some loose particles in there and that was the reason Dr. McKeon wanted to go in there and clean it out. The surgery was performed by Brian McKeon and it was exactly what he thought and he thought that was the best solution from the beginning. It just took Jermaine a little while to get on board with that. He was hoping that he could make it through the year without getting surgery.” (Emphasis mine)

Whoa, whoa, whoa Danny. So you’re telling me that this is what the doctors wanted to do all along and it took Jermaine nearly a full month to get fully on board with?

“So, Jermaine had seen other doctors, and it’s not a – Jermaine couldn’t be given 100% assurance that it was going to fix everything, so he was trying to fix it just by resting and building up the glutes and quads that we talked about last time. And it just, you know, kept swelling even before he started resuming his activities and so he reconsidered, and did it.”

A couple things to keep in mind here folks. The first thing is that, well, Danny volunteered this information about the reason for the delay in surgery. He didn’t have to tell us that Jermaine wasn’t on board at first. He wasn’t even asked that question directly initially. Yet he told us anyway. Why?

He wanted us to know Jermaine was the cause of the delay. Wanted us to know that this could have been completed about three-four weeks earlier, strongly increasing any chance the team could have had him back and contributing when the games start to matter in April.

But no, O’Neal had to do things his way. He had to go see other doctors who at least gave him the impression that rest was the right thing to do. Listen, I’m not going to fault anyone to get a second or third opinion. He has every right in the world too. Yet, if I’m given a choice of two healing methods, one that will definitely help (surgery) and one that might help, (rest) I’m choosing option A to give myself the best chance at being able to help the team eventually.

It should have been clear to Jermaine all year that the rest method wasn’t working. The team had tried that already in November, and quite obviously the swelling returning quickly. So why then would you go back to that method, when your team doctor had an alternative in place? It’s beyond baffling to me.

Don’t be mistaken though by this. Danny defended his guy (and rightfully so) for the rest of the press conference and whether he could realistically contribute something over the rest of the year.

“I think that this is kind of the – if we didn’t do it now, the window might have closed. Possibility of that. I think that’s why Jermaine wanted to do it. I mean, he really wants to contribute to the team in the playoffs and we think he can. If he can get healthy, he’s shown already in the short time he’s been with us and in training camp how good he can be defensively.”

Doc didn’t run to J.O.’s defense either later in the night:

“I thought it was the right decision [having the surgery]. I wish he had moved a little earlier on it but I think JO had to make sure he wanted to do it. And he exhausted every avenue, which I thought he should have done because it’s a tough decision.”

Again Doc trying to defend his guy. But was it really a tough decision? Listen, any surgery is no cake walk, yet we weren’t talking about a knee replacement or something here. This was just cleaning out the knee, a move given JO’s condition was clearly warranted. Rest had been tried and had not worked. So why rest again when there was a clear recommendation to do otherwise from your team?

I’m not in the position to answer this for Jermaine. One thing I do know though is that he’s lost the benefit of the doubt in my eyes. I’ve tried to give it to him in the past, tried to defend him hypothetically against the relentless criticism levied against him, knowing full well it might be warranted. For now though, it’s clear. We were right to be suspicious. And as for the window of opportunity he has of contributing this year, well as of right now, that window is barely open.

  • Dave

    I want #18 as much as the next guy, but I don't begrudge a person the right to make choices and take control of their bodies. His NBA career is only so long, he'll need use of his limbs quite a bit longer. Injuries are part of this league, that is baked in when the team hires guys, and baked in when players choose to play.

    • dslack

      Hear hear!

  • Even weirder, JO said on twitter that "isn't just a knee drain procedure"… http://twitter.com/#!/jermaineoneal/status/339320

  • Which I also assume means it wasn't just cleaning… He said it was a "surgery", which would also support the lengthy rehab time. Hopefully this could be the one which fixes it….

  • wharpua

    Is there any way we could get him & Shaq to switch contract amounts for this year?

    Also, am I (sadly) remembering things right, that we’ve got JO under contract for next year too?

    • JP-

      Yes, I think it was a 2-year contract

      • Ryan DeGama

        He's already hinted at retirement this summer. Can't imagine he wants to go through another year like this. Doubt we see him next year.

        • Chris O

          Agreed, but it is a 2 year. You never know if he got healthy and next year was shortened (which it could be). That could be a huge help to the C's a 40-50 game regular season insead of the gruel of 82 games

  • lakershater13

    Cant we get a doctor to say that hes done so we can get the trade exception. That would be ideal with teams wanting to dump salary. Any word on hamilton getting a buy out from detroit? I like our team but seeing hamilton behind allen would be great. Especially next to west when he gets back.

  • Chris O

    Ummm I don'r understand. you generally want a player to want to avoid getting surgery and playing it out if he could. And now everyone is upset he pushed off surgery til he had to do it??? Really?!?!?!? I mean I am not huge fan of what he has done for us (nothing) but I'm sure he would like to be healthy and contributing. I'm sure he wants his ring.

    • guest

      If he wanted a ring he would've done the surgery earlier. He tried rest, it didn't work.

      • Chris O

        According to what they said they weren't just going to 'try rest' they were going to try to strengthen the leg with exercises to get him through the season. This is not what they tried last time. Also when surgery was originally brought up I heard what Doc and Ainge said and they made it seem like THEY DIDN'T WANT HIM TO HAVE SURGERY. Comments about it being bone on bone and other players doing it….then the guy tries it obviously doesn't work opts for surgery and you dog on him like this….have you gone through what he is? Until then don't judge

  • Zee

    Brian, I don't know but you sound a bit take aback by the situation. His health is far more important than the NBA. Yes, I'd like him to join us, but the NBA-state-of-mind doesn't come first. I can't knock a dude for exploring other options, ESPECIALLY when I sense and believe he chose the "rest method" because he wanted to help the team NOW as much as he could. He tried to fight through the pain so he wouldn't have to be off to the side. Sure, he can help us much later, but I give him an honorable nod for at least trying to be here for us now.

    • Chris O

      I agree Zee, he was trying to not have surgery and 'give it a go' trying to help the team and possibly keep his career. Who knows if the surgery doesn't help enough he may be done.

  • Zee
    • Zee

      Danny didn't seem to have the same tone that this article did. He seemed more gracious.

  • Nal

    I understand that nobody wants to have surgery and he has the right to make choices with his body. But at the same time if he's not fully committed to getting back on the floor and helping the team then he needs to let them know that and retire.

    As the article states and as we all know, they tried rest and it did NOT work. He tried rest over surgery the first time and I can understand that decision. Why have surgery if you can rest for a few weeks and come back vs. going under the knife and being out twice as long. The decision made perfect sense the FIRST time. But if you try one option and it doesn't work then why try the same option again shortly after when another option is presented? He made the same decision AGAIN and surprise surprise it was unsuccessful AGAIN. It simply doesn't make sense.

    Either you're committed to playing or you're not, he clearly isn't. If he was then he would've taken the doctors advice and selected the alternate option as opposed to selecting the same option that already failed. Now he's screwed his team over even more.

    He needs to do the classy thing and retire so that this team can use his roster spot to bring in a player that can actually play and will actually them in their quest to win a title.

    • Chris O

      I don't know where you come up with this clearly he isn't committed to playing. He wants to play. I'm sure someone who had the career of JO (6 time all star was on his way to being a Hall of Famer before injuries) does not want to 'go out like that' at the end of his career. You don't have evidence that suggests he truly wants to screw the team over. I am sure he came here thinking he could help and obviously the C's thought so too.

      • Nal

        The evidence is his actions or lack of.

    • Zee

      Way too many assumptions being made here. Relax.

  • ROAR

    I'm sorry but looks like Brian Robb had a bad day and is taking it out on JO. What a terrible article.

  • ElRoz

    Ok…well, maybe, just maybe he can recover and get in some sort of shape and timing before the playoffs? Let's say he might play the last 3 regular season games in April….play limited minutes in the first round – 10-12 min a game – then he could be somewhat familiar again with the team's approach and can contribute about 15-20 minutes a game in the second round (assuming Boston advances, of course…just to be safe).

  • ElRoz

    6-8 weeks for JO…ok so let's say its 8 weeks…he could be ready "on April 2" or so…that leaves him 2 weeks before the playoffs….so he could play at leats the last week of the regular seson and get in about 3 games…then the first round of the playoffs and, hopefully, more.

    I'd say it is doable…but really I wish and hope the team will not need him very much because Perk and Shaq will be ok healthwise. It would be good to have JO as insurance…and I think it IS doable even if its 8 weeks from now.

  • skeeds

    Wow this article might be the first thing I read here that I completely disagree with. As others have said, surgery is surgery and can be proven the wrong choice, the FINAL wrong choice. So if I'm a player who can have 2-3years if I get this right, hell yes I'm risking not being ready for the playoffs, and I don't feel bad about it either.
    JO visited doctors in at least 3 states as we've read so far to do anything possible, and has to pursue the best long term option for his health. His knee has a chronic ailment, that can probably only be improved shot term. He's a 7foot god knows what weight giant who has to walk on that bad knee for 30-40 more years.
    So yeah, even I'd say, screw the record and the home advantage, screw being shorthanded in the paint, screw rebounding totals, and screw the "quest for banner 18". And I'm a hardcore fan, not a 15 year veteran proffcional athlete.

    • guest

      But if that's the case shouldn't he just shut it down for the year or forever? Long term is more important than short term glory, but if he's gonna say "screw the record and the home advantage" etc. shouldn't he also say "screw the 5.7 mil"? Can't have it both ways.

      • skeeds

        His limitations were known when he was signed. But when everything got worst to the point that he couldn't play, that's when he had to rethink his situation. It's not that he doesn't want to play. He wouldn't risk surgery at all if he didn't. He does, but not over destroying his knee. What was the honourable thing to do, resign from his contract because he was a bust, or try and come back for the playoffs?
        The team isn't exactly struggling out there. 2-3 weeks up or down aren't the end of the world.

  • guest

    I understand that nobody wants to have surgery and he has the right to make choices with his body. But at the same time if he's not fully committed to getting back on the floor and helping the team then he needs to let them know that and retire.

    • Zee

      Who said he wasn't fully committed? Stop making assumptions. If Celtics Hub is gonna allow spreading sensationalism and judging people's motives, I may have to stop visiting this place. I have no time for that. Let's be adults here.

  • jeff

    i agree with this article maybe the wording was too strong but as a celtic fan who has had the chance to watch jo his entire career it`s worrisome to see a guy younger than kg who played great in the past to come to camp woefully out of shape look at pierce, allan, kg,perk,rondo,bbd,shaq, all these guys especially the starters most being just as old or older than jo committed themselves to keeping their bodies in shape jo does not seem to show he cares some are saying jo is thinking about his future contracts and i say really he has stated that he hopes this to be his last contract and he wants to win a title look at you whole career and the one underlying thing is his decision making is faulty off the court he never should of had the benefit of doubt after rest did not work at first and the celtics really should see can they get miller from the rockets in a trade we do have pieces that can be moved and really wouldn`t affect the team much robinson,jo,and draft picks as n the nba you can buy mid first picks for cash

  • Ryan

    I totally agree with this article. I understand that nobody wants to have surgery, I've had two major surgeries myself that were WAY more severe than getting a knee cleaned out.

    These injuries are not new to Jermaine and he should have made this decision long ago. He has already tried rest once with no success as his team waited so why did he ignore his doctor's advice and try rest again, having already been told than it might not work? His commitment to helping this team is beyond questionable.

    I'll agree with many of the others: he knew this was a problem and that he might not be able to contribute to his new team at all. The decent thing to do would be retire, have his surgery and recover, and allow the Celtics to pick up somebody useful.