Jermaine O'Neal has a lot of thinking to do over the weekend, and it will probably define his career as a member of the Boston Celtics.
O'Neal spoke in length with reporters prior to the Celtics' 99-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats Friday night.
Standing at his locker, O'Neal fielded every single question thrown his way in regards to his ailing left knee. The soft-spoken former power forward turned center seems to be just hanging on at this point in his career, and it all happened so fast.
"I need surgery," he said rather bluntly. "I understand what the issue is with the knee. I understand long term what needs to happen for me to operate on a day to day basis."
"There are some days where I can't even walk up the stairs, you know?" he said. "Thirty-two years old."
"I didn't have any issues in the summer time," O'Neal said of his body. "I let go, I trained extremely hard, and got to the season and had a situation in a cut. It was almost just cutting on the court and all of a sudden my knee just flared up."
He hasn't been the same since. O'Neal has missed 22 games so far this season, and has yet to make any sort of impact on the Celtics.
Regarding the knee situation, he's has asked everybody from his personal chef to his wife. On Monday, he'll get a final opinion from a specialist. The next day, he will have made up his mind - surgery or play through the pain.
"I think the decision of actually being in or having surgery is really going to come down to does the surgery put me clear from the injury," he said. "If it doesn't put me clear from the injury then I might as well play and get through it. That's really what it's going to boil down to."
"If it's going to be a 60-percent chance then I might as well just put the uniform back on and go with it. That's what I want to do, but we're going to see."
The whole decision process seems to be a little confusing. O'Neal wants surgery only if he's going to make a full recovery, but if the recovery time for the surgery is two months or more, like he was told, his season will essentially be over.
"You have to look at it like if you miss basically the rest of the season, there's really no way you can help the team going into the playoffs, there's just no way," he said. "Because one, the team already has a nice rhythm, they already have a rotation set, and you don't want to interrupt that. You can't play your way back into rhythm in the playoffs because every game and every possession counts."
Doc Rivers was quick to echo O'Neal's remarks, saying, ""I'm a realist. I just think if you're coming back in April and you haven't played all year, there's a very low chance you're going to help us a whole bunch."
If O'Neal doesn't get surgery, he'll deal with these same issues for the remainder of the season: Active on one night, inactive the next. Regardless, he says he'd rather have that.
"My goal is to be here, compete, and if I'm helping the team even at 50-percent, I'm willing to help the team at 50-percent. I'm willing to jeopardize a little bit of my health long term to have a chance at winning a championship this year."
"You don't get this opportunity very often, that's how I see it," he said. "That's probably the most difficult position to be in. Because you know you make decisions now that you might have to pay for a little bit down the road. But sometimes it's worth it. It's hard to find a situation like this."
O'Neal thought about playing Friday night, but decided against it. He needs to keep the knee calm incase he does opt to go through with surgery on Tuesday.
The player that the Celtics signed to the full MLE is not walking through that door, fans - just 50-percent of him. But with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins returning in the near future, a 50-percent Jermaine O'Neal might be just enough.