Free Agent Stock Watch: Jermaine O’Neal

In his limited time on the floor last season, veteran big man Jermaine O’Neal proved that he still has plenty of basketball left in him.  In a little over 20 minutes per contest, the 6’11” O’Neal averaged 7.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG, good for a respectable 15.3 PER rating, just above the league average.  Sure, those aren’t the kind of numbers O’Neal posted during his best years (18.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 2.4 BPG with a 19.5 PER) but at 35, J.O. can still be a solid piece off of the bench.

As we learned last month, the Warriors are still in regular contact with O’Neal, but he’s also giving some thought to retirement.  O’Neal hasn’t lost his love for the game of basketball, but he badly wants to spend time with his family.  It’s hard to blame him.  The 35-year-old (36 in October) has spent the last 18 years on the road, bouncing from city to city ever since he went pro out of Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina.

In a chat with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle in May, O’Neal admitted that he felt that he had unfinished business.

It’s been a fantastic run,” the six-time All-Star said, while adding that he’d ask his 8-year-old son for input. “You never picture your last game being one where you can’t be effective in a Game 7. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

O’Neal went on to thank his teammates in Golden State for “injecting life back into [his] soul” and said that he would consider a front office job with the Warriors if he doesn’t continue his playing career.  You never know what might happen if an attractive contender comes calling, but as far as we know, it’s a two horse race between the Warriors and retirement at this point for O’Neal.  With a long, accomplished career, plenty of cash in the bank, and a young family at home, no one would fault O’Neal for calling it quits this summer.

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