Could Jermaine O'Neal follow former Pacer coach Rick Carlisle to his new gig in Dallas?
A case was made for this move by Bill Ingram at Hoopsworld.com based on the success a healthy J.O. had under Carlisle. The proposed move would have Josh Howard as the key piece going to the Pacers. I can't see this happening for several reasons.
For starters, I agree with holes Bruno poked in this theory in his latest Caught in the Web.
An undeniably dynamic talent, Howard's value to the Pacers is mitigated by two factors: his recent admission of marijuana use and the fact he plays a position already manned by Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy.
There's also the not-so-small reality the reported salaries of O'Neal ($21.4 million) and Howard ($9.95 million) do not approach a match. The Mavs would have to double their stake with either Erick Dampier or Jason Terry to make it work. Not likely. It would make more sense, in fact, for the Mavs to offer Dampier and Terry, which actually might constitute a more tempting package for the Pacers.
After the David Harrison suspension this past year, it would be a real tough sell to bring in Josh Howard after his admitted marijuna use. Sure, Howard says he only uses in the offseason. Yeah. For all we know he could already have a couple of failed drug tests against him and the team wouldn't know. Remember, the Pacers were blind-sided with Harrison's third failed test and suspension because the previous two violations were kept confidential.
Josh Howard is a great player and no doubt a good guy, but the Pacers can't take a risk of having another player suspended for drug use and Howard would definitely constitute a risk. Now, Jason Terry? I have a lot of love for Terry and could tolerate a deal including him, although his contract may have a couple years too many for my taste. Still, combined with Dampier, it might be as good a deal as the Pacers could find for J.O.
That brings me to my other problem with this proposition. Yes, J.O. had some good years under Carlisle as the offense was run through him on most possessions. Still, things didn't end well with Carlisle's tenure. Jermaine was making noise about wanting to leave while Carlisle was the coach. To put it kindly, I don't think J.O. ever had the cuddly relationship with RC that he developed with Isiah Thomas.
From Carlisle's perspective, he's weathered some tough times with J.O. and may not want to bring in a high maintenance, high salaried player. Plus, J.O. would never be the center-piece of an offense in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki available to take the ball.
So there you have it, the first Jermaine O'Neal rumor of the offseason. Seems like a plausible deal when you look at the basketball factors on paper. The mountain of non-basketball related factors is where the plan goes astray, though. A point no Pacer fan should take lightly because it highlights the tough job Larry Bird has ahead of him as he tries to reshape the roster. The vetting of any moves the Pacers make will have to go much deeper than just on-court evaluations of talent.