Jermaine O’Neal Keeping Teams in Limbo


Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, I hope everyone had a great Holiday season!

Last season Jermaine O’Neal surprised all, if not most of us, by…well…existing.

After two seasons in Boston from 2010-2012 where he played in a combined 49 games and averaged 5.2 points, it seemed the very successful career of JO had met its end in year 16.

But as many players have, such as Steve Nash and Michael Redd, O’Neal became the newest applicant for career revitalization under the Phoenix Suns’ miracle training staff.

O’Neal went on to put up respectable numbers, especially for a 34-year old coming off two straight years of serious knee problems. However, he capped out at 55 games.

Next year he went to Golden State to hop aboard the NBA’s newest, most exciting team. A curious pairing for the fragile veteran big and the up-tempo squadron ultimately conducted by the fantabulous “Splash Brothers” of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Now playing his majority of inside minutes at power forward instead of center, a revisit to his primetime days as an Indiana Pacer, the Warriors got a lot of help and even more leadership out of Jermaine O’Neal. The latter in particular for 38 games, because he only suited up for 44 regular season affairs. He did make some contributions in the postseason for the Dubs, but there was a reason his contract stood at one season.

Photo Credit: IndyCornrows
Photo Credit: IndyCornrows

Retire? Ye-No, not yet at least.

Jermaine O’Neal remains unsigned as of January 19th, 2015, but if he had a destination in mind and it matched to several interested contenders, that wouldn’t be the case.

The pursuit for the would-be 18 year veteran services were recently intensified by two events, trades to be specific by two of the league’s major championship contenders.

On December 18th the Dallas Mavericks acquired Rajon Rondo in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics. As part of the give, they sent valuable backup center Brandan Wright to the Celtics (has since been dealt to Phoenix) thus creating a hole behind Tyson Chandler that won’t be filled long-term by any of the short term solutions being attempted in Greg Smith, Charlie Villanueva and Dwight Powell.

On December 24th the enigmatic Cleveland Cavaliers lost starting center Anderson Varejao for the season to a torn Achilles. On top of Andy V being a ticking time bomb when it comes to his delicate injury history, Cleveland already needed to add a backup big to help a small front court.

I know what you’re saying, didn’t the Cavs already fill that vacancy by acquiring Timofey Mozgov from Denver? Well, yes but what remains is the spot after Mozgov that was after Varejao that remains after Mozgov.

Besides, Jermaine O’Neal isn’t a starter anymore. The Mavs or Cavs and some of the other rumored teams of interest like the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers obviously wouldn’t deploy JO as a starter.

It’s been just over a month since the Rondo trade and several weeks since the Varejao injury. Portland also lost Robin Lopez to injury, but he will return unlike a torn Achilles or being traded to another city. As for the Clippers, they’ve been constantly make-shifting their backup bigs for years. (See: Antawn Jamison, Byron Mullens, Glen Davis)

With the regular season of minor importance to Jermaine O’Neal’s bill of health and durability for his potential destination’s playoff run, he’s in no rush to make a decision and sign.

As Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban put it on December 29th, “I don’t know if he wants to come here.”

Wherever he goes, that team will be getting a role player, but a big helper.