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Jermaine O’Neal treating this season like it’s his last

Mar 4, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors

Jermaine O’Neal has spent three careers in the NBA.

He entered the league as its youngest player – undercutting Kobe Bryant by a few months – and spent four seasons in Portland buried on the bench.

Then, he went to Indiana and made six straight All-Star games, even finishing third in 2004 MVP voting.

Afterward, he floated to Toronto, Miami, Boston, Phoenix and Golden State, making modest contributions in each stop.

Raw youngster, star and journeyman.

He’s really settled into that last role with the Warriors this season, averaging 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 20.8 minutes per game. Of course, a pleasant regular season isn’t what O’Neal is after at this stage of his career.

Eighteen-year pros, O’Neal and Steve Nash are the only active players in the NBA that long without a championship. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have already gotten their titles.

O’Neal knows time could be running out. O’Neal, via Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:

“This could be it,” said O’Neal, 35. “So this is my last chance to try to win a championship. That’s how I view it right now, whether it is or not.

“It affects all the way to how you view your pregame meal to your nap to your bus ride to the arena. Those things are a little more intense than they would normally be.”

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It’s difficult to read that quote and not think about a passport issue keeping O’Neal from travelling with the Warriors to play the Raptors, but for what it’s worth, he firmly denies losing it:

O’Neal is not perfect – he also discusses The Palace brawl in Leung’s article – but he’s had an incredible career. Whether or not he wins a championship, that won’t change.

But the passion he’s put into his quest for a title is precisely why his career has unfolded this way.

  1. reesesteel23 - Mar 4, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Was automatic with the post-moves and jumper while in Indiana. Malace in the Palace + offseason surgeries derailed his career

    • mortalkondek - Mar 4, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      So right. I remember my Pistons going at it with Indiana in the ECF and O’Neal in the post was one scary dude. Seems he wasn’t the same after his knee problem. Respect.

  2. coryfor3 - Mar 4, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    He’s contributed as a role player much longer than I thought he would. Alot of guys that are stars and put up the big numbers can’t transition to a smaller role when injuries and age impact their play. Good on him for the way he has extended his career and been willing to change roles.

  3. metalhead65 - Mar 4, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    chamionship or not the guy made a great living off his tar years with the pacers. just think of all the millions he made from teams dumb enough to give him based on what he had done with the pacers even though all he did after he left was have surgery. he should have named a kid after the team that set him up for life.

    • metalhead65 - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      not begrudging the guy for making as much as he did but just pointing out the facts. he as never the same player after leaving the same player after the pacers and was always injured. how many teams has he played for since? how many games has he played in? enogh to justify what he has been paid since his pacers days?

  4. spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    The huge mistake of his career was NOT signing in San Antonio in 2003. They were just off the Ch’ip, and Robinson was retiring. They had MAX money to offer. He could have slipped in right next to Duncan and won a couple of rings. Instead, he re-signed with Indy, Bird fired the coach he loved IMMEDIATELY, and he slipped into obscurity.

  5. pharohislife - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Well sadly it looks like he’s gonna have to retire without that Championship

    • pharohislife - Mar 4, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      Am I wrong? At least not on that Warriors team.

  6. sportsinhd - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    He’s absolutely right, that Pacer team was jobbed out of a title by David Stern. Yes, Indian’s players were in the wrong, but so were some Pistons, Palace security, NBA officiating, and the idiotic fan who lit the powder keg. I watched that game, it was chippy, and there was a lot of anger on the court that night and in the stands. Throwing a drink on Artest was like throwing a match on gasoline.

    Had a big market team been involved in that brawl at the Palace there’s no doubt in my mind that the penalties would have been less severe. Stern didn’t just penalize a few individual Pacers for the fight at the Palace, he penalized a fan base and any real fan of basketball who likes watching the best in the world play the game.

    • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      The plain fact is that Artest and Jack are just flat out crazy, and if you put enough of that in a room, it ignites. What happened was inevitable, either that night or some other.

  7. gostlcards5 - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Always loved JO when he was with the Pacers. Clearly, what happened in Detroit was out of character. Not surprising from Artest and Jackson, but it certainly was from JO. Unfortunately, it was also inexcusable.

    The worst part is that two franchise icons (Reggie and JO) did not get a real chance at a title, in a year where the Pacers were serious contenders.

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