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Celtics fans knew Jermaine O'Neal as a player who spent his tenure with the Celtics injured for the most part. He played only 24 games in 2010-2011 (averaging 5.4 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game) and 25 games in 2011-2012 (averaging 5 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game).

Unfortunately, we saw more of this in Boston
than what we saw of JO against the Spurs on 2/27/13
However, since JO decided to come out of retirement and join the Phoenix Suns and their renowned trainers, we have seen him play in 43 games thus far this season. Tonight against the San Antonio Spurs, who have the best record in the NBA, he played the entire 4th quarter, helping the Suns outscore the Spurs 18-4 in the paint that quarter. He put up 22 points and 13 rebounds in the game, leading Phoenix to victory and breaking the Spurs' 18 home game win streak. Keep in mind that this is only one night after he notched a double-double (10 points/13 rebounds -- he has had 5 double-doubles this season) against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

For the most part, O'Neal's numbers have been better with Phoenix than they were in Boston, where he was consistently injured. While JO definitely had a few great games for the Celtics, most fans associate JO and Shaq as players who sat out with injuries for more games than they contributed, and many are bitter about the salaries they consumed while doing so. (Aside from sitting on the bench, JO also put his creative energy into creating the Le Jaunty clothing line, so I guess his years in Boston weren't a total waste).

So what has changed for JO in Phoenix? From a motivational standpoint, it seems odd that he would play better for a team that is at the bottom of their conference as opposed to one that had a chance to bring home a championship. But keep in mind that he was usually on the court with 4 other All-Stars during his time in Boston, so perhaps he couldn't adjust to his role.

From a non-mental perspective, all signs point to the Phoenix Suns training staff as being miracle workers. They were able to keep Grant Hill and Steve Nash relatively healthy for their tenure as Suns. They are constantly introducing technological advances in training equipment to their players, like vests that contain devices that gather data on their athletes' fitness levels. Many an article has been written on the Suns' staff, and how they are seemingly able to generate a fountain of youth for veteran players.

So my question is why aren't these training techniques more widely used by other teams? Are they secrets that only those in Phoenix have the answers to? Or can the Celtics hire similar practitioners to help manage the veteran players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? After all the season-ending injuries that the Celtics have experienced this year, why is it not the team's priority to go out and sign some members of the Suns' training staff? That might be a more important signing than finding some good bigs at this point.

Danielle Hobeika 2/28/2013 12:55:00 AM Edit
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