Since entering the NBA in the 1996 NBA Draft, Jermaine O’Neal has been seeing his seasons end earlier than he had hoped for.
However, rather than go to the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs as other aging vets have done recently, O’Neal decided to trek west and join the Golden State Warriors. He signed a one-year deal with the team earlier in free agency, looking to help establish a new contender in the league.
Golden State made a lot of noise, not only in the Oracle Arena as touted this past playoff run, but around the league as well, behind their deadly shooter Stephen Curry. As they were defeated by the Spurs in the second round, they realized that they needed frontcourt help and found O’Neal to be a solid fit.
O’Neal stated in February that his desire to go after a ring diminished when his daughter was ready to undergo heart surgery, which helped put what his life into perspective. Since then he’s said that she’s doing much better, and with a productive season with the Phoenix Suns under his belt, he decided to take on the championship challenge one more time.
The 55 games O’Neal played last season were the most he’s played in a year since the 2010 season and he put up a respectable 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 18.7 minutes per game.
With center Festus Ezeli out until at least December due to knee surgery, O’Neal has his chance to break into the rotation. Other factors that work to his advantage are that Andrew Bogut wasn’t consistently healthy last year and beyond that, the other two big men on the team are All-Star David Lee and other summer signing Marreese Speights.
With Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes ready to take their game to the next level, along with Lee and the signing of Andre Iguodala, O’Neal won’t be counted on to score nearly as much as he used to. His job will mostly be to patrol the paint, be a steady defender and find his way to mesh into the offense.
O’Neal is ready to do what he has to in order to contribute to the team, though. O’Neal has always found his way to score, which is probably his greatest asset as a player. He’s coming off a good season compared to recent years and is looking to up his level of play next year, but it is yet to be seen if he can be a piece to upgrade the team into contender status.
Though high hopes shouldn’t be in place for O’Neal’s contributions this year, he’s ready to prove people wrong and deliver. For Golden State, this could be another dynamic to help take them to the top.