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Jermaine O'Neal: Through Talking, Ready to Play

Jermaine O'Neal declared trade talk involving his name won't be addressed this year, according to this Indy Star story from media day (check out video link below). If a GM mentions his name in a trade, maybe. But he's not talking about trade talk from the growing number of NBA talking heads. Sounds good to me. Also, J.O. delivered a good report on his knee, expressing excitement over beginning the year healthy.

Not only is he healthy, but J.O. appears happy, as well. That happiness stems from the relationship he's developing with Jim O'Brien. His brief discussion of O'B efficiently opened a nice window into some of the problems over the past couple of years under Rick Carlisle.

Team president Larry Bird acquired outside shooters, which should make things easier for O'Neal in the post. O'Neal said he hopes the off-court distractions from the past few years are finally behind them. He also spent time with new coach Jim O'Brien in the offseason, with both sharing the same vision -- playing hard and winning.

"He's a very forceful guy and his demeanor is aggressive and when you have a coach like that, that says certain things, and when he says it, that's what he really means," O'Neal said. "I felt like (former coach) Rick (Carlisle) was a great 'X' and 'O' coach, but the only difference between coach O'Brien and Rick is his ability to communicate away from basketball. I think his relationship with players is going to put us on the right track this year."
Carlisle may have had an open door policy but it sounds like he wasn't available in the off hours and didn't engage the players outside of practice and games. These are all grown men, so I don't lay that lack of a relationship completely on Rick. But, not openly communicating with your boss/coach outside of work can begin to build a barrier where assumptions are made on both sides that eventually fester into a problem.

Those days are over now. Sounds like O'B will chat up the players anytime, anywhere and encourage them to do the same with him and their teammates. Little things like this improve the culture and make the team stronger. Since the Pacers have to develop a team that delivers greater production than the sum of its parts, these little improvements are critical.

Indy Star video: Jermaine O'Neal