On Tuesday evening, the Golden State Warriors took on the New Orleans Pelicans in front of 15,330 rowdy fans at the New Orleans Arena. Starting center Andrew Bogut was suspended for the game after his involvement in an altercation last Saturday with the Portland Trail Blazers.
After suffering what seemed to be serious knee and groin injuries against the Utah Jazz 10 days ago, 35-year-old backup center Jermaine O’Neal‘s status for the next few weeks was in serious doubt. However, O’Neal surprised the Warriors by how quickly he was able to recover and he took over the starting center duties against the Pelicans.
The 2013-14 season is O’Neal’s 18th in the NBA and he is not exactly known as a scoring threat down low. He has been serviceable, however, and his performance against the Pelicans showed why the Warriors acquired him in the offseason on a $2 million, one-year contract.
In Golden State’s narrow 102-101 victory, O’Neal undoubtedly had his best game as a Warrior. In just more than 26 minutes, he contributed 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. He also grabbed an additional eight rebounds. O’Neal was able to display solid footwork, and variety of strong moves in the post, as he went 8-of-10 in the paint.
It is important to note that the Warriors will not need to rely on O’Neal’s scoring output to lead them to victories very often. Tuesday night was a fine example of how his hard work ethic and veteran leadership have enabled him to have a solid career in the NBA. He doesn’t need to put up monster numbers on a nightly basis to be effective. If a 35-year-old can put up the effort that O’Neal displayed on Tuesday, then the Warriors core of young players need to understand that they too need to step up their game. The Warriors have been hampered by injuries thus far this season and they currently hold a shaky 9-6 record.
O’Neal has averaged 13.3 points on 46.5 percent shooting thus far in his NBA career. It is unlikely that he will have as effective a scoring output again this season as he had on Tuesday night. That doesn’t take away from the fact that without O’Neal’s performance, the Warriors would have been on the brink of falling to .500.
Bogut will return to the Warriors for their meeting with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. As we have become accustomed to, expect O’Neal to come off the bench and give the Warriors about 17 to 20 gritty minutes against the Mavs.