Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA/TODAY Sports
Note: This post originally appeared on MavsFanatic.com
With the recent news of Josh Smith’s availability following his release from the Detroit Pistons and subsequent rumored interest in joining the Mavs, we felt it would be germane to the conversation to discuss another big man that is currently on the market. That’s right, we’re talking about 36 year-old free-agent center and Dallas resident Jermaine O’Neal. (See what I did there?)
In terms of fit, O’Neal is exactly what the Mavs are sorely lacking. He would fill the role of Brendan, no not Brandan Wright, but 2011 Champion Brendan Haywood as the “Back Up Big” behind Tyson Chandler.
At 6-11, 255 poounds, O’Neal would give the Mavs a lane-clogging big man who can rebound and block shots, which could be very useful against Western Conference bigs like Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol, who have physically punished the Mavs inside of 15 feet this season. Offensively, he won’t be asked to do much; but he does come with the ability to play with his back to the basket in isolation although he lacks superior mobility. He’s an 18-year NBA veteran who has had a successful career as a six-time NBA All-Star, has made All-NBA team three times and was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2001-02, despite battling serious knee problems that have limited him to 148 games over the last four seasons. In his career, O’Neal has averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Somewhat of an NBA journey, Jermaine has played with seven different teams; including the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and most recently with the Golden State Warriors where he averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 44 games.
ESPN has recently linked Jermaine to the Mavs, among other teams, saying O’Neal is “highly intrigued” with the idea of joining forces with the Mavs following the acquisition of Rajon Rondo. With rumors circulating about where he may play, if at all this season, Jermaine took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify those rumors yetsterday afternoon:
“For 18 long years sports has dominated my families life to a point that they have had to sacrifice things that was important to them.
So you can believe now whatever decision I make will be a pure family decision that my family will have a huge part on making with me.
Can I physically still play?Probably better than 60% of the bigs in the league today! That’s not a knock on anyone but more about how I feel
My decision will not be based off any personal relationships with a city or organization which will be tuff because of the love I got for them”
Except that didn’t clear up anything.
For now, the Mavs will attempt, and likely fail, with a committee of big men with Charlie Villanueva and Greg Smith. And no, that’s not a knock on them, Brandan Wright’s departure to the Celtics simply left the Mavs with a big hole to fill in the middle – which has many of us starting to wonder if the trade for Rondo created more problems than they actually eliminated. While Mavs General Manager Donnie Nelson said he feels “confident” the Mavs will be able to sign either Josh Smith or Jermaine O’Neal, they may very well end up with Shaquille O’Neal (not really) or Emeka Okafor (really) for all we know. And imagine if Josh Smith ends up with the Rockets and then Rondo spurns the Mavs this summer to join his buddies in Houston. That’s how quickly things can go south.
The “Jermaine O’Neal Decision” is expected to come early next year. He may decide to chase a championship with the Mavs, re-up with Golden State or even call it career. We’ll all know soon. Stay tuned.