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Jermaine O'Neal: Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

During the Pacers' presser yesterday, LJL stuck to his talking points when asked about J.O.'s status with the Pacers.

Jermaine O'Neal's name circulated in trade reports for much of the offseason but has disappeared from the rumor mill in recent weeks. Is that an indicator the team's leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker will return?

"I've said it all along: I hope so," Bird said. "I look forward to having him back in the mix. When he gets double-teams, we're going to have players out there that can hit the shot now."
LJL "hopes" J.O. is around? Umm, unless I'm missing something, J.O. will be around unless he's LJL. Obviously, it isn't that easy. If J.O. is not down with O'B and wants out, I'm sure the Pacers will want to accomodate him. They're one trade away from a full-scale rebuild and looking ahead at J.O.'s salary for the upcoming three years (07/08: $19,710,000, O8/09: $21,352,500, 09/10: $22,995,000 ht:HoopsHype) makes a deal more palatable.

J.O. would need to play at the level of a top 5 player in the League. He's a great player, but hasn't reached that level yet and despite his age there is plenty of wear and tear on his body. J.O. had the best year of his career going for about three months last year, then he started to wear down with injuries. Unfortunately, that has been a recurring theme. Still, my heart tells me I'd like to see J.O. get one more chance with the Pacers and see how far he can lead a team if he stays healthy.

But, my brain has to weight in, so let's say J.O. isn't traded and either gets hurt again or worse stays healthy but doesn't lead the team anywhere. J.O. may then decide not to opt out, then the Pacers are stuck looking at those last two years of salary and a diminished trade value.

So what does J.O. think about all of this? Your guess is as good as mine. LJL's continued hedging when asked about J.O. leads me to believe J.O. wants out and they're trying to make it happen. If he wanted to stay, I figure we'd have heard from J.O. by now with a strong endorsement of O'B. But we haven't heard a thing, which is good. If J.O. does want out, his silence says enough and he avoids driving down his value by playing the malcontent card and demanding a trade. Plus, all of the silence syncs up with the Pacers M.O. When the organization is quiet and the rumors subside, LJL likes to strike.