Does Jermaine O'Neal factor into the Pacers future?

Unless you’ve been on sabbatical somewhere remote, you’ve proably been barraged recently with news on Utah Jazz Andrei Kirilenko, Phoenix Sun Shawn Marion and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, and their varying levels of unhappiness. The Jazz are pulling out all the stops, including bringing in former player Jeff Hornacek as a temporary shooting coach and mentor, to appease Kirilenko and get him to back off his trade demands. The Suns are putting on their best poker face and calling Marion’s bluff with seemingly no intentions of trading the disgruntled star – team leader Steve Nash welcomed Marion back and chalked up his pre-training camp trade demands to summer frustration. And, Kobe and Lakers management seem to be the best of pals, at least for now [see story below].

But the status of another NBA all-star, whose name hasn’t been as ubiquitous recently, seems to be very much up in the air. Earlier this summer, Jermaine O’Neal made some waves in the NBA universe by announcing his love for all things LA, saying that he wouldn’t mind playing alongside Kobe Bryant in a Lakers uniform. A few days later, he backtracked on those comments, blaming a reporter for taking his words out of context. Whether that was the case or not, Jermaine O’Neal’s future with the Indiana Pacers is cloudy at best.

Listening to a recent interview on the radio station Sports Talk 980 in Washington DC with Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird, it was noticeably clear that Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t figure into the the Pacer’s plans for much longer. When asked about the future of Pacers and how Bird has gone about instilling loyalty and commitment from his players, Larry’s response seemed to make it clear that he doesn’t see O’Neal as a core of the team going forward.

“We’ve got some young players here like Danny Granger and Shawne Williams who are very talented, and I think in the future they’ll take over the team,” Bird said. “Right now they want to be here, they work hard every day and they put in the extra work. I think in the future these young men could step up and be the type of player that we can build something around, be glad of the players they have around them and take this franchise forward.”

Last we checked, Jermaine O’Neal is 29 years old and in the prime of his playing career. Sure, he has had to deal with injuries the last couple of seasons, but had been the face of the franchise since the retirement of one Reggie Miller. Seems odd that JO is left out of the conversation when discussing the future of the Pacers and moving the franchise forward.

Bird continued, later in the interview, with some more comments that indirectly weren’t too kind to his starting power forward/center. “If I could go out and get a big man right now, I would go get him over anybody,” Bird said, when asked about the importance of the post game. “Because, I think that’s the key to winning. You gotta have a guy down in the post where you can pound it inside, get fouls, get the other team into the penalty and keep the pressure on the defense.”

Again, doesn’t Jermaine O’Neal play that post position for the Pacers? The guy has been averaging essentially 20 and 10, with 2 blocks a game since the 2000-2001 season. Doesn’t that count as the post presence that Larry bird is looking for? Maybe Bird was thinking more along the lines of someone like Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Hmm.


Juste said...

why doesn't bird just make the deal. trade oneal to the lakers already!

Anonymous said...

Because the Pacers don't want scrubs like Bynum. I would take Bynum and Odom maybe, but come on JO is a perennial All-Star! We need more than that.