Erik Spoelstra coached Jermaine O'Neal for 108 games, including playoffs.

The two had their ups and downs together, and the Heat ultimately placed a value on O'Neal that didn't work with the latter's opinion or desire for a quicker resolution when he became a free agent last summer.

But in that he still had games to play against O'Neal, Spoelstra was understandably interested only in delivering the positive side of the ledger when asked about the situation.

(There was no mention of O'Neal shooting 9-for-44 in a five-game, first-round loss to the Celtics last year when the center was slowed by injury.)

"We valued what Jermaine brought for two years to us," Spoelstra said last night before his former player had four rebounds and three blocks in the Celts' 97-81 win in Game 5 at the Garden. "He gave us a presence down low, and he's a unique center in this league because he's a two-way player.

"He's always been an active, shot-blocking center who can play a team defensive concept. And he's one of the quickest guys to take a hit, which makes him unique for a center — a guy who can make a block and then also take a charge.

"And he took a lot of charges for us last year, him and Udonis (Haslem), so that helped."

Switching to the other end of the floor, the coach added, "Offensively we were able to play an inside-out offensive game with him. He was good for us for two years."

After listening to Spoelstra for a few paragraphs, you've most likely been left with one question: So why didn't you do more to keep this guy you say can do so many things and was so important to your club?