Jermaine O'Neal's heyday with the Pacers is far behind him, but the 34-year-old center still carries fond memories of his time in Indiana, and he'd like to end his playing career in a Pacers uniform, reports Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. O'Neal is on a one-year deal with the Suns for the minimum salary.
"I would be honored if the organization would allow me to (retire with them), the city allowed me to do that," said O'Neal, who played with Indiana from 2000 until 2008. "I can go anywhere in the world and people recognize me from my Pacers days. My heart and soul is here, and if I can get an opportunity to retire as a Pacer that would be fantastic."
A Pacers return doesn't seem likely any time soon, since Indiana already has a pair of centers on long-term contracts in Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi. O'Neal, a 17-year veteran, has never won a title, but said he isn't interested in chasing a championship, and just wants to "go somewhere and have fun." O'Neal feels like he's accomplished that so far with the Suns this season.
"The spirit here is great, (though) we’re not where we want to be with the record," he said. "It’s a great atmosphere and makes you feel young all over again."
O'Neal didn't say when he wanted to retire, so he might be interested in returning to Phoenix next season before pursuing a return to the Pacers, as long as the rebuilding Suns would want him back. He's played well in his limited playing time for Phoenix, posting an 18.5 PER and 7.1 points per game in 16.8 minutes per contest. Still, the Suns might want to go with a younger option next year, and O'Neal will be hard-pressed to get more than the minimum wherever he winds up.