You know I love Jermaine O'Neal and wish him nothing but the best with the Toronto Raptors. Bottom line: Biggin' was eating up a third of the cap and didn't get along with the boss, so a change of address was good for everyone.
I have no intentions of following J.O.'s every move this year, but I can't let his annual health report pass without comment one last time. Jermaine talked to Ian Thomsen about his expectations for the coming season and offered plenty of interesting comments. J.O. went through his departure, his health status, and his desire to prove all doubters wrong.
"The fact is, I played on one leg for two years," says O'Neal, whose averages shrank to 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 42 games last season after he reinjured his knee in 2006-07. "You hear people say that you slowed down, that you don't have it anymore -- but you know that you still have it. All the naysayers who are saying that I lost a step, they'll get a full dosage of me next year."
See Jermaine is not a glass-half-full type of guy leading up to the start of the NBA season. He's a glass-is-overflowing-get-me-a-bucket type of guy. I think he feels if he doesn't discuss his intent to win a championship, his desire will be questioned. He's a pleaser. He doesn't want his desire questioned.
But maybe J.O. developed so many "naysayers" because they tired of taking him at his word when those words turned out to have nothing but fresh air backing them up. I had to chuckle upon reading the Thomsen article today because it was so similar to an interview J.O. gave last year at this time. Here's a quote from the Pacers.com Q & A last August.
But all in all I'm healthy, finally. Do I think I'm going to get hurt this year? No. I've never walked into the season with the goal of playing 82 games the last three years because I knew what I was dealing with and I knew it was going to be a process of me getting my body together. A couple of times I walked into camp and I was still rehabbing. But this year, it's totally different. I've stayed around here - quietly - every single day. I only leave on the weekends. I'm here, I'm focused and I'm ready. For the critics out there, I appreciate them. I hear what they say. I criticize myself, too. Even though the last six or seven years I've been one of the most consistent 20-nine (points-rebounds) guys in the league, maybe in the top five. To me, that's not good enough. I take it personally when I hear other people being talked about on that elite level and all of a sudden I'm being pushed out of it. That is a major issue to me. This year, I'll be back.
Once the season started the images conjured up by those words didn't match what we saw on the court. If this was healthy, then J.O. is past his prime and the Pacers are in trouble. This was the only conclusion to draw until the reality of his knee's health was revealed. Now we know, despite what he said last summer, J.O. was really playing on one leg.
I think J.O. can regain his past form if he's truly healthy, so I don't consider myself a naysayer. A skeptic? Absolutely. I'm skeptical of anything J.O. says at this time of the year. I've tried to buy what he's been selling in the past based solely on my hopes and dreams of a good season.
This year, I'm simply amused. Also relieved that this season the Pacers don't have to pin all their hopes on J.O. backing up his words with action.