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Waiting on the Pacers at Raptors

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It didn't take long after the Pacers dropped to one game below .500 to revitalize the Jermaine O'Neal trade talk. The morning after Tuesday's loss to the Celtics, J.O. was quoted in this story as being ready to roll with a trade. J.O. completed the quote saying, "It would be no hard feelings whatsoever."

This is not news from J.O., but having the quote reported raises everyone's eyebrows again.

Is J.O. unhappy? He sure looks unhappy on the court. He must hate O'B's attempts at an uptempo offense. Blah, blah, blah.

HoopsWorld wasted no time speculating on J.O.'s future, floating the idea that the Nets may covet J.O. now that Vince Carter is on the shelf.

Then, I was listening to the B.S. Report with Ric Bucher, Marc Stein, and Bill Simmons. Their Kobe trade talk turned to a nice discussion about J.O. and the Pacers. Both Bucher and Stein made comments that appeared to contradict each other, but I agree with both.

Bucher isn't sold on J.O.'s max contract value, mentioning he's missing that key 'it' quality of great, championship players. Bucher mentioned Tracy McGrady and J.O. were great players for 3 1/2 quarters but when it is winning time they just don't have what it takes to carry a team. I completely agree. J.O. has proven time and again that he can't fill the go to guy role at crunch time.

I do, however, think he would be extremely valuable with say, Kobe Bryant, as a second or third option and defensive anchor. Marc Stein mentioned this same point in defending J.O.'s value.

If the Lakers do decide to keep Kobe, Bucher thinks the Pacers will eventually come off their demand for Bynum and Odom and just take Bynum and expiring contracts. If it comes to it, that's a deal I can embrace.

One thing that keeps bugging me is how everyone judges J.O.'s body language on the court and assumes he can't stand playing with the Pacers or for O'B. The fact is, he usually has a stoic look on his face when playing and when the Pacers are losing he doesn't hide his disgust. But, I think that has more to do with the losing and not O'B or the Pacers. Check him out when the Pacers are winning. When he was on the bench at the end of the Pacers win over the Heat, he was going crazy, pumping the crowd up, pumping his teammates up. The Pacers were winning and he was having a blast.

On Jim O'Brien's radio show tonight, O'B made a point to defend J.O. He mentioned that J.O. played 38 minutes against the Wizards and when he was on the court, the Pacers played the Wiz dead even. He also mentioned that the coaches showed the team where they've failed in pushing the pace. Granger, Dunleavy, Quis, Williams, were all shown instances where they should've been sprinting down the court. O'B also said that J.O. WANTS the pace to improve because it increases the ball movement and opens the middle up for him to operate.

I'd say the Pacers are in no hurry to trade J.O., yet. But, if things don't improve for the team, J.O. is the only asset that can be moved to significantly shake up the future direction of the team, and moving him has to be considered.