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