CHICAGO -- Celtics reserve center Jermaine O'Neal deemed himself fit for Saturday's tilt with the Chicago Bulls, clarifying that he sat out the second half of Friday's win over the Toronto Raptors in large part because of Boston's comfortable cushion and not any setback with his left knee.
O'Neal, sidelined for 20 games this season due to a lingering left knee soreness, admitted he's been particularly sore this week, thanks in part to Boston's busy schedule (six games in eight days) and the heightened activity following a near two-month layoff. But he stressed that he hasn't experienced any setback.
"I'm ready to go," said O'Neal, joking that reporters must not have got the memo about Boston's strategic rest plan on the first night of a back-to-back Friday. "I've been sore for the last week or so. With back-to-back games, we're always more cautious."
O'Neal said he didn't undergo any additional treatment Friday, "Just ice and stem. I actually feel pretty good today."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers seems resigned to the fact that this will be a season-long issue for veteran players like O'Neal, and didn't seem concerned by that.
"I’m assuming that’s how it’s going to go, just the way it is with his knee," said Rivers. "He’s going to have good days and bad days. Him and [Shaquille O'Neal] are probably the same in that regard."
Jermaine O'Neal confirmed as much, leveling that he won't be bashful asking for rest when the knee is sore and the Celtics have the opportunity to ease his workload.
"To be honest with you guys, there's going to be times when the knee is not going to react well," said Jermaine O'Neal. "I know that, the team knows that. I'm not trying to hide that from anybody."
With center Kendrick Perkins talking Friday about a return to game action in as little as three weeks, and noting he's eager to resume his starting role, both O'Neals could soon benefit from additional rest thanks to lower minutes.
"With Shaq and Jermaine, it'll help them more than anyone," said Rivers. "They're playing more minutes than they probably anticipated -- in a row -- right now. [Perkins' return will] allow all of us to stay fresh and that will be great."