WALTHAM, Mass. – Veterans are lining up to sign with the Miami Heat for the minimum salary and a chance to play with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Jermaine O’Neal decided it was time to depart South Beach.

“I knew what they were trying to do, and I could have re-signed back with those guys,” he said Wednesday after passing his physical with the Boston Celtics. “But it comes down to fit. It comes down to personalities and style of play, and I thought Boston has all that for me. It came down to winning now and not worrying about chemistry.”

O’Neal agreed last week to a two-year deal, the first for the midlevel exception of about $5.76 million. For now he’s expected to start in place of the injured center Kendrick Perkins, and after that he’s content to fill a role off the bench for a team that won it all in 2008 and returned to the NBA finals this year.

“Being a part of something great is what matters to me,” O’Neal said. “I know what the city represents. I know what the organization represents. I know what the guys on the court represent. Obviously those guys they have a ring already but they want another one. I don’t have one and I want one. They know what it takes to get one.”

Perkins went down in Game 6 of the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and missed the decisive game. He had reconstructive surgery on his right knee Monday, and he is expected to be out until at least February.

That left the Celts in need of a big man, and O’Neal will partially fill the role.

“When he comes back, it’s his position to have,” O’Neal said. “I’m just here to do my job. I’m not trying to step on anybody’s feet. I’m not trying to do anything to cause any issues. I’m here to win. That’s just really what it boils down to.

“I probably wouldn’t have wanted to back up anybody. But this situation is proven, and why come in and try to mess up something that’s already proven?”

General Manager Danny Ainge said he wasn’t done shopping for big men but didn’t expect Rasheed Wallace to change his mind about retiring.

Still, O’Neal was doing his best.

“He had a lot of great things to say about the organization. That was kind of the selling point, too, him coming in and him actually being here for a year and understanding the situation, the scenario, the chemistry.

“I shot him a text and I told him to come back,” O’Neal said. “He didn’t respond.”

A six-time All-Star, O’Neal said he’s in “the stretch run” of his career, but denied he could no longer contribute.

“I believe that my play will speak for itself,” he said. “I could play five more years. But hopefully I could win it next year, then win it the next year and then walk away.”

Ainge will try to talk him out of it.

“We think he’s a perfect fit and complement to the players we have on the roster right now,” he said. “Maybe for much longer than the next couple of years, but for the next couple of years, for sure.”

O’Neal didn’t play in seven of the last 12 regular-season games, but returned for the first-round playoff series against Boston. He totaled 21 points in the five games, making just 20 percent of his shots.