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3-on-3: Jermaine O’Neal

Jermaine O’Neal’s days in an NBA All-Star uniform are far behind him, but he is also the only center on the Celtics’ roster (I refuse to consider Kevin Garnett or JaJuan Johnson as centers in any fashion). This means the Celtics and their fans alike will have to rely on O’Neal to give them something, really anything, this season.

Ryan, Brian, and Hayes attempt to tell you what that something may be:

1. Will Jermaine O’Neal have any kind of resurgence?  Or will be able to give the Celtics less than he did last year?

Ryan DeGama: Sometimes it seems like O’Neal is the oldest player in the league even though he’s only 33. Am I cynical if I expect him to arrive at camp overweight and then miss a long stretch with some sort of mysterious leg injury? Because unless he’s slimmed down to reduce the impact on his knees, I expect the C’s will again find him unreliable.

Brian Robb: If by resurgence, you mean being able to stay out on the floor for more than 3/4 of the season, I’d say yes. This will likely be the final year of O’Neal’s career and while he showed flashes during the postseason last year, what you saw there when he was out there last year is probably what you are going to get. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. For much of the Knicks series he was the team’s star defensively, especially in Game 1, prior to breaking his left wrist. For the C’s to compete for a title, they are going to need a lot more on the offensive end from JO, but expecting him to deliver on that at this juncture of his career seems foolish. If he can continue to bring the defense and weak-side shot blocking ability, Doc Rivers should be content.

Hayes Davenport: “Less than last year” is pretty ambitious. He only played 24 games. So I’m going to predict Jermaine to gloriously rise from the ashes and play at least 30 games, which is only barely south of his 40-game average for the last five seasons. As for his actual play, I think we can expect him to be tall and smart under the basket on defense for about 20 minutes a game. Pretty much the same as last year.

2. Will Jermaine O’Neal be the starting center for the C’s this year?  If not, who do you think will play the most minutes at the 5?

Ryan DeGama: O’Neal starts until his body breaks down. Then Doc Rivers will find himself turning to whoever is occupying the backup spot. Right now, that’s nobody. Soon it might be Glen Davis, Kwame Brown or Reggie Evans. Which tells you all you need to know about Boston’s advantage at center over Miami and Chicago: there is none.

Brian Robb: Yes. For the same reason he won’t be amnestied this year—there are really no better options out there for the C’s. With only the mid-level exception (3 million) and veteran’s minimum deals to work with, you aren’t going to find a more starter worthy player out there at that price compared to O’Neal. As far as the minutes go, I expect JO to see 20-25 a game, in hopes to keep him healthy. Look for Big Baby to take the bulk of the other minutes at the 5, along with Player X (veteran’s minimum player) to fill in the gap.

Hayes Davenport: I don’t think Jermaine is going to start at center for the whole year, no. I think Glen Davis is gone, so when Jermaine’s bones finally stage their bloody coup three months from now, the Celtics need to have signed somebody. I think they know that, but I’m really not sure who they’ll end up with. Maybe Chuck Hayes, but I think the most likely option is Kwame Brown, who seems like he’ll respond really well to being screamed at by KG every day.

3.  Despite what Danny Ainge says to the contrary, do you see any upside to amnesty-ing JO?

Ryan DeGama: None, unless Ainge thinks he can bring in younger, better guys for the veteran minimum. What we’re learning about the amnesty clause is that it’s only useful if it gets you far enough underneath the cap to sign a better player and the cost of doing so isn’t prohibitive.

Brian Robb: No, not for the way this team is currently constructed. If JO was amnestied, the only thing the C’s would gain is five million dollar MLE as opposed to the mini (3 million) one they hold now. Without JO, Ainge would be down to just seven players under contract, and no centers on the roster. Would doing that be worth the two extra million dollars the C’s could throw at a free agent? I think it’s safe to say the answer is no.

Hayes Davenport: Not really. Wouldn’t free up enough space to land anyone of actual value, except maybe another center, but then there’s still no backup center. I honestly want them to hang on to the amnesty because I’m worried Danny will sign Jeff Green to what will be an untradeable contract a year from now, and then he’ll at least have to consider undoing it before he ultimately decides to stick with Green for three more years. That’s pretty much where my confidence level is at these days.

  • srb

    It's too bad we can't rely on JO, since I admire what he did in the playoffs. Sort of like Rasheed, gutting it out and giving you tons more than they did in the regular season.

    When you guys said his age that was like a little glimmer of hope, I could have sworn he was over 35. Probably most people would say the same thing though.

    • Morpheus

      I had the perception that he was older too, about 3 years older. That's probably because he moves like he's 3 years older…lol

  • Morpheus

    I have 0% faith in JO….ZEERO. Kwame Brown….ugh, he's a solid backup. If Danny's serious about competing this year, making one last run at a title, he needs to address this major weakness in our lineup. We don't have Shaq no more, so it could possiby be JO, Kwame or JO, Hayes or JO, BBD(No please NO), JO, Reggie Evans(oh yes another small, undersized forward playing at center)or JO____fill in old veteran's name here….Kurt Thomas?

    Danny's faced with some tough decisions. Boy oh boy, the decisions he faces over the next few weeks could seriously damage his legacy as Celtics GM.

    And those back2back2backs are going to burn our Big 3 out faster than you can say "Big Baby is too small to play at center Doc, why can't you see this, why not play Krstic some more minutes at C…oh wait."

    If Danny goes after Evans, will he have enough money for Kwame? It makes more sense to go after a C first, so Kwame is the guy Danny should be eyeing. Develop Jajuan as backup to KG.

  • tbunny

    Bring back RASHEED lol.

  • KC

    Hmmm. Should the Celtics have drafted Jeremy Tyler instead of Jajuan Johnson?

  • ripsonics

    The other day i sat on the bike trainer and watched game two of celtics knicks at the garden.

    Did JO look like the JO of old. Absolutely not. You know what JO did. BLOCK SHOTS. And even if he didnt block shots, his mere presence detered people from going to the hole, and his out stretched arm made people change their shot so drastically that they missed.

    He may not have been a massive stud like we all had hoped, but he was definitely a factor in the playoffs, and I am excited to see what he can bring to the table this year.

    Go C's

  • john

    if the celtics resign delonte, sign and trade big baby for a young defensive center, use the mid level for a guy to back up ray/paul and actually TRUST Jajuan Johnson to actually play about 20 minutes a game then the celtics have a solid roster, but then again all of thats easier said then done.

  • redcon

    i used to watch JO with the pacers and the man was ripped and super athletic now it seems he`s only ripping up his knees and bags of potato chips

  • -JP

    Its a shame that Kristic wont be playing for us this year, he had some good moments especially on offense last year. He would be a decent back up to JO and probably as good or better than anyone the celtics can get on the open market. I am hoping for Reggie Evans or Chuck Hayes. These guys can rebound, which is what we need the most.

  • Morpheus

    What's with this new news that Boston are willing to trade for CP3 without assurance? A 1 year rental? So it got me thinking, see i was thinking Danny has 2 options here, take one final run at 18 by adding complementary pieces around the Big 3 and Rondo(by pulling a rabbit out his ass), or, go into complete rebuild mode. If he chooses to have one final run at 18, then he'd have to do something drastic, very very drastic. A one year rental for CP3 would be drastic. Going into complete rebuild mode is by far the easiest route. You can't sit on the fence though. And we all know Danny is very capable of drastic measures.

  • ElRoz

    I expect more and better things from Green with the C's this season. I will not be surprised if he plays much better and jells well…I will be surprised if he doesn't. As for JO, if he can consistently stay for 20-25 min a game and play 75% of the season…Wow – I will be very impressed. It is not his contribution or ability that is doubt here…just his longevity-health even in a shortened season.

    If it works out, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Kwame Brown, Baby or Hayes, and Green is a good bench, with Johnson and Bradley as the 3rd option.

  • ElRoz

    Or Reggie Evans that is, too….

    any combo that get you two guys for the center-pf forward position from this list would be a good-ok outcome:
    K. Brown
    Ch. Hayes
    R. Evans
    G. Davis

    though with K. Brown and Ch. Hayes + Rondo Boston WILL BE the worst free throw shooting team in the league.

  • SK35

    The point Hayes makes on the last question is incorrect – if Ainge signs Green to a bad contract, he won't be able to use the amnesty clause to undo it. From my understanding (everything I've read about it), you can't amnesty any deals signed after the new CBA is approved. You also can't amnesty a guy you trade for after the new CBA goes into effect (that is to say now). You can only use the amnesty on a contract on your roster now.

  • Kricky

    Man the Perk trade keeps biting us in the ass over and over again!

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