Danny Ainge joined The Big Show for his weekly interview and said that Jermaine O'Neal was getting closer to a return and coule be back on the court by next Thursday when the Celtics play the Spurs. Ainge was in Chicago to watch O'Neal work out and said that he looks better than he has all season. "The swelling issue that had prevented him from [playing] early in the year is not happening right now," Ainge said. "Since the surgery, it's been a lot better."
Ainge said that the plan was for O'Neal to join the C's in Indiana when they play the Pacers on Monday and then travel with them to San Antonio. O'Neal paid his own way to Chicago to work out there and did so with the team's blessing. "It's not something that we normally do," Ainge said. "But Jermaine paid quite a bit of money out of his own pocket to do it. He felt he could get more individual attention. It's on him to get healthy and be ready and he's put in the time."
On the subject of coach Doc Rivers, whose deal expires after this season, Ainge said that he has had discussions on a new contract. "We've had an ongoing discussions with Doc since last summer," Ainge said. "Doc knows we want him and we've had contract discussions. Doc doesn't really like to discuss those things during the season. He doesn't really want to draw attention to himself. He doesn't like it when players are worried about individual things and individual contract things. he doesn't really like the discussion about contracts. He and I have talked privately, and I'm sure we'll have more conversation before the year's over."
Here are some more highlights:
On the big four: "Our main guys have got to play really well. They've had great years, but when they play normal and we play average, then we're an average team. It's that simple."
On the Celtics' recent struggles: "I think a lot of it is effort. We went through this last year a little bit. Our guys have been there, done that. They know the playoffs are just around the corner, and sometimes I sense when I watch us play that they don't understand the urgency of the games we're playing right now and that we're letting an opportunity such as home court slip by."
On Lawrence Frank, who has been rumored to be a candidate for the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee: "Lawrence is committed to coaching with us. I have a feeling that Lawrence will be a candidate for a handful of opportunities and options. He'll have a lot of options, at least he should, this summer. I don't know to what extent he's a real candidate at Tennessee. I haven't had a call from Tennessee for permission to talk to Lawrence about their head coaching job."