Thursday, May 17

Jermaine O'Neal Wants To Play For The Knicks

Stephen Jackson, I'm sure everyone knows him, stated to the public the other day that Jermaine O'Neal had desires to play for the New York Knicks to reunite with his former coach, the guy who molded Jermaine into an All-Star, Isaiah Thomas. Jermaine has already revealed in the past of his desires to play for the L.A. Lakers because of close-friend Kobe Bryant. So shall we call in early on this "J.O. lottery"?

Jackson said that O'Neal was unhappy with the mid-season trade that sent Jackson (the speaker) and Harrington to Golden State for Dunleavy and Murphy. The trade has removed all but a few remnants of the players that were supposedly to be built around Jermaine for NBA conquest. From the 2003-2004 season which was the moment when the team could have been called a complete and viable contender (61-21 regular season record and eliminated in Eastern Conference Finals), only Jamaal Tinsley and Jeff Foster remain from the core line-up with O'Neal.

Departed Pacers: Reggie Miller, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest, Austin Croshere, Fred Jones, Coach Rick Carlisle

Jermaine O'Neal has already stated in the past that he will not demand a trade, but demanding is different from desiring. O'Neal said that he has too much respect for the Pacers franchise, which gave him the chance to develop himself as a leader and as a player, to demand a trade from them. In other words, he wants to be traded, but he is putting his franchise before himself.

However, despite all the respect O'Neal has for the organization, I doubt they'll be able to reward him for it in the near future; especially after continuous horrible management decisions, the Pacers are in a hole and are bound to lose for years to come. The loss of Miller actually resulted in the disappearance of veteran leadership within the team, and left O'Neal alone to carry the Pacers. The first managerial boo-boo that caused the roster fall-out was the Ron Artest trade: wherein they traded Artest for Peja Stojakovic in hopes of re-signing his expiring contract. Bad move, Peja ran away. That was like giving away Ron Artest and getting nothing back. The next boo-boo, and a very horrible one at that, was trading Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson (as mentioned above) for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. Come on, where's the common sense? Did they panic that they were only 5 games above .500? That is what I call managerial choking. They traded two 'Do-You-Want-Me-To-Whoop-Your-Ass' players for two pencil-pushers. Just to remind everybody, the Pacers fell down the hill from there. Everything they have been trying to build for the past 8 years, gone in a flash.

Jermaine O'Neal is all class, and plays with a lot of heart. He played out the last two months of the season (obviously in a struggle) and only revealed when the season was over that he had been playing through an injured knee which required surgery. He had held off the surgery in order to keep playing in hopes of making a playoff push. That is heart. If the Pacers organization had any heart themselves, they would grant J.O. his desires for everything he has done for the franchise.

It would be a shame to watch him waste his prime on a rebuilding project, where he will never be truly happy playing for. O'Neal has just entered his prime, now at 28, and it would be a shame to see him waste the following three-years, where he will be playing the best basketball of his life, on a shabby-excuse for a team.

I say trade him in the off-season! Give the guy a break! Putting him in the Knicks would actually create one of the most feared front-lines in the NBA as he takes sides with Eddy Curry. Dropping him in the Lakers would look very interesting on paper though, teaming O'Neal, Odom, and Bryant. Kobe would finally have help on the scoring load and a go-to-guy (Odom never was), and an inside presence on both ends of the floor. What do you think? Contender?

How about teaming him up with Kevin Garnet and Tracy McGrady? They all belong to the 'The Guy Everybody Loves, But Never Seems To Catch a Break' category. It's close to impossibility, but they're just false hopes and dreams.

Final words: Trade the dude.

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