How Could Jermaine O'Neal's Possible Surgery Affect the Boston Celtics?

Mike MehtaContributor IIJanuary 13, 2011

The Celtics will have to cope without Jermaine O'Neal once again
The Celtics will have to cope without Jermaine O'Neal once again

After suffering soreness in his left knee against the Toronto Raptors Jan. 7, Jermaine O'Neal missed last night's game against the Sacramento Kings and is being re-evaluated once again. He went for an MRI today and there is a strong possibility of in-season surgery for the 32-year-old center.

O'Neal has spent more days on the injured list than on the basketball court since becoming a member of the Boston Celtics.

O'Neal missed the majority of training camp as well as several games in the preseason and has only managed to play in 17 of the 38 games so far this season.

During his time on the court, O'Neal has shown that he is still a defensive force. His offensive game still needs time to develop within the Celtics' system, though.  

O'Neal understands that his job is to rebound and play defense. 

Regardless, most Celtics fans have been frustrated and disappointed with the signing of O'Neal and wonder if the Celtics could have used the mid-level exception more wisely.

"In-season surgery was definitely something we talked about the first time I was out for the extended period of time," O'Neal said today on Boston Sports radio. "We wanted to try a couple of other options. We may be looking at that situation now."

"Surgery is something that I will eventually need, at some point—at the end of the season or if it's in-season—but you want to be around," O'Neal said.

"You don't want to miss extended periods of time, and for myself. I already did that. So you make your decisions as a player, and you listen to the staff and, if they have a certain way, then you try that out ,and if it doesn't work you have to go with the next-best scenario," O'Neal said.

It appears that O'Neal is becoming a little frustrated with his injury situation.

"I'm going to run in to see the doctor again in just a second with the team trainers," he said. "And we're going to make a decision on ultimately what's best for me to get better and be done with the ailment and be back on the court full time."

There is no timetable on how much time O'Neal would miss after the surgery, but the Celtics remain optimistic.  For the time being, they will count on rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to carry some of the load while awaiting the return of Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. 

Celtics' Head Coach Doc Rivers tried experimenting with different lineups in today's practice by playing Marquis Daniels at the power forward position and Glen Davis at center.

Hopefully the Celtics won't have to revert to those desperate measures, but the health of Shaquille O'Neal and Erden cannot be counted on.

Side Notes

Kevin Garnett participated in several full-contact drills during today's practice and garnered some praise from Doc Rivers.  Regardless of the improvement, Rivers insisted he will not play in Friday's game. "

He looked pretty good. He actually, besides his wind and stuff, his movements were very good," Rivers said.

The new expected return for Garnett is next Monday against the Orlando Magic.

Avery Bradley will be sent down to the D-League as soon as tomorrow.

"He needs to play basketball. Especially with our schedule and the fact that we don't practice at all," Rivers said.

While that does open up a roster spot, Rivers insisted that the Celtics are all set with their current roster and currently will not look to add an additional player.