There have been several former Celtics that have returned to the TD Garden this season to face the C’s. Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Greg Steimsma, Marquis Daniels, even long lost guys like Gerald Green are usual greeted by some fondness by Celtics fans. Yet tonight will be a somewhat different occasion as the one and only Jermaine O’Neal makes his return to the TD Garden floor. The notorious training camp MVP of 2011, will probably need some directions on how to get to the Garden floor, given how little time he spent on it during his two seasons in Green.
O’Neal has already surpassed his season-high total of games played for the Celtics in two years this year for Phoenix with 28 games played, after going down as potentially one of the most disasterous mid-level free agent signings in Danny Ainge’s tenure. His inability to stay on the floor, as well as his lack of offense while he was on the floor proved to be to the C’s detriment the past couple years to say the least. I don’t fault Jermaine for the injuries, although I lit up Jermaine for the timing of his decisions which proved damaging to the team. However, let’s not forget what Jermaine said upon walking out the door in Boston this summer.
Jermaine O’Neal said that Boston wasn’t a good fit for him. He’s looking forward to finding a situation where he can have a better role.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 17, 2012
Hayes Davenport had some fond parting words for Jermaine this summer after those comments:
Jermaine was the starting center for the Celtics for much of his time with in the organization, but occasionally came off the bench when he was returning from his many injuries or before the Perkins trade. He was asked to rebound, play defense, and score when he got good looks while sharing the floor with the league’s best playmaker. Pretty solid opportunity for a 32-year-old who, again, has had every injury.
So it’s unclear what kind of role O’Neal is angling for here. Combo guard? Sideline reporter? Does he have a quick-change act he’s hoping to unveil as a halftime show?
Rest assured that the Celtics feel pretty much the same way about Jermaine as you do at this point (if you don’t like him). Multiple sources with close ties to the organization have revealed to CelticsHub that O’Neal was considered a difficult primadonna by both many of his teammates and Celtics staff. He repeatedly refused to go along with team recommendations for how to handle his injuries, and at times wouldn’t respond to phone calls from the team, to the point that they had to send representatives to his home in Las Vegas during the offseason just to get in touch with him.
Now, Jermaine is languishing in Phoenix as an ineffective backup center on a bad team. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a highlight montage for him tonight in Boston…if we do though it probably will only be long enough for a 20-second timeout.