The Return of the Shadow

There are many reasons to link the word shadow to Jermaine O'Neal. To start with, when you are called O'Neal and your first name is not Shaquille then you know you are not in the spotlight. He has spent 15 years in the league being the other O'Neal. He didn't get several NBA titles, he didn't earn MVP awards and he certainly didn't appear in any TV programs.

We are talking about Jermaine. Let's just talk about JO. He started out in Oregon, being a teammate of Celtics cult and controversial member Rasheed Wallace. Back then he wasn't even a shadow. He was just a young promising forward trying to get himself a place in the league. He would need some corn and wide open fields in Indiana to become an All Star and a defensive weapon. He did so in a quite cozy environment as you well know. Indianapolis is not New York, but it's not as if JO was anything keen on being a cover of any Melo knickerbocker dialed song. It was in the deep lands of Indiana that Jermaine got his status of MLE deserver for a championship caliber team. That seems a little long ago, though

He also played for the Raptors and Heat before arriving here. You can surely link him to the shadows because he played for the Miami Heat before James and Bosh joined the Florida media hyped squad. Before the spotlights were on them and after the other O'Neal had left the Heat to play in Phoenix and then in Cleveland to join the league hyped Lebron. As always, escaping the big lights and running away from the big interviews and the ESPN talk.

Jermaine surely became a Celtic shadow of our own when he got hurt at the start of the season. He didn't show up at the games or made any appearance in the media. Heck, he didn't even live in Boston. He visited doctors, got surgery and got himself into shape in Chicago. You could say you had forgotten about Jermaine O'Neal. He was the guy that got the MLE and that never showed up to prove he deserved it.

But now you hear about him again. You find yourself surrounded by talks about O'Neals wearing green for us down the stretch of this regular season. You think of Shaq, you think of hype. There is nothing mainstream about Jermaine, though. He gives you some D, some tough rebounds and some good old shot blocking. He knows how to play and he plays it well.

You may finally say that Jermaine is a shadow if his former self in Indiana. He has had one healthy leg for a long time and he hasn't posted double figures in a year. He is almost done, at the very end of his career, and yet you never know what is really going on with JO.

Silently, quietly he enters and leaves your life. He never makes too much noise and yet he is always missed. He has the tools, the experience and the talent to be the X factor in Doc's formula for a new championship. And of course you can never be sure with him.

Celtics fans, let's welcome again the biggest shadow in our team's history. Watch the man that can make our defense look flawless again. Live the mystery of a shadow that can finally blend with his inner light at the end of his career. Jermaine can finally meet O'Neal and be the guy that helps himself and his team be at the spotlight when the rest of the lights go dark. He can finally play with Shaq to be the build the perfect O'Neal.

Jermaine is back. Let's hope he never leaves. Not until the rest of them leave.

Until #18 is ours next June.

Jermaine and Shaq, one O'Neal, one ring.

For Celtics glory, once again