Our Big Three: Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, and Jermaine O’Neal

[Brent checks in with a nice fanpost, making the case to ride out J.O.'s contract. This is my dream scenario, I'm just not sure it is possible at this point. I'm also not sure J.O.  really wants this scenario to play out either. We'll see. - Cornrows]

In his playing day, Larry Bird once said, "Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you're ready to play as tough as you're able to, you'd better go out there and do it.  Players will see right through a phony.  And they can tell when you're not giving it all you've got." 

As of now most Pacers fans have labeled Jermaine O’Neal as the exact opposite of a leader by Birds definition and pretty much the fans have written Jermaine off as a phony and a thug.  Many of the NBA experts have already predicted Jermaine will be traded this summer, while most Pacers fans are hoping for it.  Jermaine O’Neal, the same Pacer who has been to more All-Star games (Six: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007) than the Pacers iconic Reggie Miller (Five: 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2000), and the Pacer who leads the franchise in block shots with 1,113 in his career (and a 2.42 block per game average).  Why should the Indiana Pacers trade a players who’s number seven is going to (or at least should be) hung and retired in the rafters of Conseco Fieldhouse when his career comes to an end, especially while when he hasn’t even turned 30.   When the time comes and hopefully once Larry Bird comes to his senses, Jermaine will be back in a Pacers uniform, healthy, and once again viewed as one of the elite power forwards in the NBA. 


I agree the Pacers likely will and should trade Jamaal Tinsley, especially after head coach Jim O’Brian stated to the Indianapolis Star, "To say as a coach we're going to go with [Tinsley] as our point guard despite the injuries, you can't do that," O'Brien said. "It's very, very difficult to depend on him when, physically, he's been undependable."  However, just because the Pacers are going to get rid of Jamaal doesn’t mean the Pacers should also get rid of Jermaine.  Ever since the "Malice in the Palace" when Jermaine O’Neal defended his teammates he has undeservingly been pigeon holed into being viewed as a thug because of the actions of Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Tinsley, and all the other Pacers who have had legal problems during their stints with Indiana.  Does everyone forget that Jermaine has done nothing but great things for the community of Indianapolis and this is Jermaine’s first offseason healthy in the last three years?  Look at the level Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett played this season while they were healthy and they’re both three years older than Jermaine, if Jermaine is a "poor man’s" Garnett, then I would take the "poor man’s" Garnett healthy than the older "rich man’s" Garnett playing out of his prime.  With everyone saying the core of the Pacers future is Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger, why can’t Jermaine be too?


If and likely the Pacers draft D.J. Augustin or Russell Westbrook their point guard position will be set for years to come, especially with Travis Deiner emerging this past season as a very legitimate backup.  Deiner played about twenty minutes a game, averaging about 6.9 points and 3.8 assists per game.  Furthermore, in doing so Jamaal Tinsley officially will become dispensable (don’t forget our perceived veteran PG Flip Murray is only 28), allowing the Pacers to trade for one more descent player that fits JOB’s system and style of play.  With the backcourt set with young talented point guards and the cornerstones of the franchise Mike Dunleavy being 27 and Danny Granger being 25, it only makes sense that the 6 time all star Jermaine O’Neal who is only 29 can once again be a vital piece to a Pacers championship run.  I mean, to put it in laymen terms, I have two different pairs of Jermaine O’Neal Nike Shox in my closet, do you ever think Kirk Hinrich , Anderson Varejao or any of the other plays being used as bait for the Pacer’s O’Neal will ever have their own shoe?  For crying out loud, JO almost won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award a few seasons, Jermaine finished third in MVP balloting following the 2003-04 season .


Just think about that, after that same season Jermaine spent the entire offseason healthy (the last one healthy until now), then the 2004-05 season came along with the massive brawl in Detroit which resulted in O’Neal being suspended for 25 games.  The thing about that forgettable season is that many people forget to remember Jermaine averaged 24.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in the games he was allowed to play, helping the Pacers to an astonishing 8th seed without Artest for the entire season and Jackson for most of it.  The three previous seasons, where he was obviously healthy, he averaged 20 points a game (19.97 to be exact) 10.3 rebounds and only missed fifteen games (in all three seasons).  If JO really is healthy and there is a good chance he could return to his All-Star status again for possibly multiple seasons just ask yourself why the Pacers should give him up to a team trying to win a NBA Championship right now like the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Dallas Mavericks when Jermaine and the current cast of Pacers could be legitimate contenders themselves? 


Remember what Kobe thought about the Lakers last offseason, I’m pretty sure he said Bynum (who turned out to be as if not more valuable a young Center than the Timberwolves Al Jefferson, and yes the Trail Blazers Greg Oden) should have been traded for Jason Kidd, their front office were idiots and he would never play for the Lakers again.  It’s laughable as you fast forward to right now, Kobe’s still wearing the purple and gold and he is in the Western Conference Finals less than a year later with a pretty good chance to win his fourth NBA title.  After thinking about this immensely I just can’t understand why going into the 2007-08 season the Pacers couldn’t be considered legitimate contenders with the starting lineup of Troy Murphy, (a healthy) Jermaine O’Neal, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, and D.J. Agustin (or Russell Westbrook), and the bench players being built around Shawn Williams, Kareem Rush, Travis Deiner, Ike Diogu, and Marquis Daniels. 

Troy Murphy came on late last season to somehow (surprisingly to even me) emerge as a legitimate and productive player at his position.  In knowing Jim O’Brien’s system and style of play, Troy Murphy is the perfect Center for JOB, a 6-11 245 lb big man who shoots almost 40% from three point range.  Additionally, Dunleavy undoubtedly has come around to be an amazing player and Granger has subsequently grown into the player the Pacers always had hoped he could when he fell to them at the 17th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft (and Granger still hasn’t reached his ceiling of potential).  With the Pacers having a lot of money invested in Dunleavy and Murphy and with them being 27 (Dunleavy) and 28 (Murphy) years old, why not keep Jermaine for two more years and see what happens, then get rid of him when he is 31 (the same age Tim Duncan and Garnett are right now, who by the way each have lead their teams to the Conference Finals, oh wait that was actually a lie, they’re both 32).

In my mind Jermaine O’Neal fits Jim O’Brien’s system like a glove if he will learn how valuable he would be to the team if he could kick the ball out to the perimeter shooters more often.  I’m sure everyone has seen the Bill Russell and Kevin Garnett interview that has been played a million times in the last week.  Instead of trading Jermaine we just need a NBA legend to give JO the same lecture, where Russell in a nut shell told KG to trust and lean on his teammates if he wants to win rings like he has, he needs to bring others with him.  O’Brien has made it clear he loves to shoot the three, but that doesn’t mean he wants his players to sprint down the court and launch threes all day long.  If worked into O’Brien’s system correctly, Jermaine could allow Dunleavy and Granger more opportunities than any other play they could possibly get our perimeter shooters and I guarantee that for at least the next 2-3 years (you really think Drew Gooden or Anderson Varajao scare anyone on the block?). 

The big what if everyone argues is what if Jermaine isn’t healthy, well that same "what if" is likely what all the other teams are also using against the Pacers in trade talks.  With that argument we will never get anything of equal value for Jermaine, so why trade him?  The upside of Jermaine is far better than any offer the Pacers will likely get in return for JO.  Just look at what the Pacers did the last time they were in this situation when Ron Artest was perceived by the entire league as crazy, uncontrollable, and a locker room virus.  The Pacers ended up giving him up for Peja Stojakovic who left the following season, signing with the Hornets as a free agent.  That trade ended up descent until Walsh worked out a deal that lost us our first round pick of the 2007 draft for nothing in the end (for Al Harrington to be precise, who we later traded to the Warriors).

Fast forward to last season where Bird made the trade that everyone thought ruined our team’s hopes for the future.  Personally, I loved Stephen Jackson but he just turned 30, Al Harrington turns 29 in February and Sarunas doesn’t even play in the league anymore (didn't even return to an elite level in his recent comeback in th Euroleague).  In retrospect, with the three years younger, taller, bigger, more versatile, and surprisingly more coveted shooting guard Mike Dunleavy outperforming Stephen "Cap ‘n’ Jack" Jackson, and with the taller, better shooting (percentage wise), and younger Troy Murphy outperforming Al Harrington, why not keep Jermaine?




Now I know the thing all Pacers fans think they want is for the Pacers to get rid of Jermaine, but ask yourself why?  I will admit, I was falling into the same trap but I’m starting to think it’s not what the Pacers need.  For instance, look at the Chicago Bulls trade that was rumored this week.  The Pacers are thinking about trading Jermaine O’Neal to the Bulls for Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich.  I think that’s a descent offer but I also don’t think Kirk Hinrich or Drew Gooden will ever be All-Star caliber players in the NBA with the Pacers but I do honestly think Jermaine could be an All-Star again for at least 2-3 years, so let’s stop thinking about trading JO and start thinking about keeping him.  Just think about how regretful Pacers nation will be next year if we watch Jermaine O’Neal help another team to a NBA title whiles the Pacers sit back and likely play mediocre basketball for another year.  The Pacers aren’t as young as everyone thinks they are, the Pacers average age is 26.7, in my mind we have a three year window to start winning (and building onto a winning team) and I just don’t see how trading Jermaine can better our chances of doing that.  If we trade Foster and Tinsley we will have a team entirely under the age of 30.  Just look at the list I have compiled below and contemplate how old Jermaine really is, once you put it into perspective and are aware of other players older than him, you possibly might change your mind about the Pacers being better off without Jermaine O’Neal on their roster.  Everyone has jumped to the unwarranted conclusion in Indiana that Jermaine O’Neal is washed up, we never gave up on Reggie so why are we giving up on JO?



Jermaine O’Neal (born October 13, 1978)

Players Who Are Older Than Jermaine:

  1. Rasheed Wallace      (born September 17, 1974)
  2. Steve Nash                 (born February 7, 1974)
  3. Kevin Garnett             (born May 19, 1976)
  4. Tim Duncan                (born April 25, 1976)
  5. Chauncey Billups      (born September 25, 1976)
  6. Antawn Jamison       (born June 12, 1976)
  7. Peja Stovakovic         (born June 9, 1977)
  8. Manu Ginobli               (born 28 July 1977)
  9. Paul Peirce                 (born October 13, 1977)
  10. Richard Hamilton       (born February 14, 1978)
  11. Stephen Jackson      (born April 5, 1978)
  12. Shawn Marion            (born May 7, 1978)
  13. Mike Bibby                  (born May 13, 1978)
  14. Dirk Nowitszki            (born June 19, 1978)
  15. Kobe Bryant                (born August 23, 1978)
  16. Shane Battier             (born September 9, 1978)


Players Who Are Barely Younger Than Jermaine:

  1. Elton Brand               (born March 11, 1979)
  2. Hedo Turkoglu          (born March 19, 1979)
  3. Larry Hughes            (born January 23, 1979)
  4. Baron Davis               (born April 13, 1979)
  5. Tracy McGrady         (born May 24, 1979)
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