BOSTON -- Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal said he arrived at the arena Monday with every intention of suiting up against the Washington Wizards, but the training staff suggested he sit out due to lingering soreness in his left hamstring and he ultimately erred on the side of caution on the second night of a back-to-back.
O'Neal did not dress for Monday's game and instead was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Greg Stiemsma as Boston capped a two-game sweep of the Wizards with a 100-92 triumph at TD Garden.
"It's not an injury; I got here with intentions of playing and (team trainer) Ed Lacerte went through the regular routine of my pregame (workout) and I was still sore. ... He preferred for me not to play. I came to the arena with thoughts and intentions that I was playing, but he had a conversation with (coach) Doc (Rivers) and sometimes players get trumped. ... It's not a hamstring pull or anything like that. In fact, I'll be ready to go come Wednesday."
O'Neal later called Lacerte one of the "best athletic trainers in the business" and stressed that the team made the decision based almost exclusively on the schedule.
"That's exactly what it was ... we're playing every other day for the next week and a half," said O'Neal. "Yeah, I wanted to fight it, but I couldn't fight it. (The training staff) said, 'Just wait, get ready for Wednesday's game.' "
Rivers stressed that O'Neal's hamstring isn't bad and his absence is largely precautionary.
"It's not bad," said Rivers before the game. "Eddie just came to me and suggested that he didn't play -- he didn't say, 'No, he can't play,' he suggested it. With the hamstring, you just don't want to take any chances. JO's been doing so well, we figure with tonight, (an offday) tomorrow, and then maybe he can play the next game."
O'Neal's hamstring tightened up late in the third quarter of Sunday's win in D.C. After missing 58 games during the regular season last year, O'Neal said in training camp that he wanted to play in upwards of 90 percent of Boston's games.
Stiemsma started and scored 13 points in O'Neal's place and the team got additional frontcourt depth as Chris Wilcox (left shoulder bruise) returned after a three-game absence.
As for Stiemsma drawing the start, Rivers said he felt most comfortable with him playing alongside the Big Four.
"Well, we're just trying to protect him by starting him because he's with the four best players, and that helps him," Rivers said before the game. "The one thing he does is block shots. I'm thrilled to death that he's shooting the ball because he can actually really shoot the ball. He doesn't have much of a post game, but he can spread the floor. And that's good."
Said Stiemsma pregame about his start: "I'm ready to go. This whole time here has been about opportunities, and I'm just looking at it as another one. So I've just got to go out, play my role and play hard."
He admitted to being surprised after getting word of his start when he arrived to TD Garden.
"I kind of did a double-take, but I'm ready," he said. "I'm ready to step in and just keep playing like I've been playing. Just play hard and hopefully smart and take care of the ball, do the little things, and be ready to go."
Wilcox, who had originally targeted Sunday's game for his return, had a little additional padding near his shoulder on his undershirt, but said he's ready to go.
"It's feeling better," he said. "I'm going to go out here tonight, see how it feels and we'll go from there. Not a lot of practice time, so you know, try to get in the game."
He said he would play with no limitations.
"I'm just going to go out here and play hard, do what I've been doing," he said. "If it feels uncomfortable, then I know exactly where I'm at. But as of right now, I'm feeling good, so I'm going to go out there and play."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.