DECEMBER 19TH: Dallas has an “undeniable edge” in the competition to sign O’Neal, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Mavs’ acquisition of Rajon Rondo has intensified O’Neal’s interest in joining the team, Stein indicates, noting that the 36-year-old O’Neal lives in the Dallas area and has long hoped to play close to his home. Dallas has an open roster spot following Thursday’s trade, one that left the club thin at center.
DECEMBER 12TH: Free agent Jermaine O’Neal has been has been weighing his options on whether to return to the court this season or simply call it a career, in a situation similar to that of Ray Allen. Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reports that O’Neal is likely to make his decision in January. If O’Neal does indeed decide to return to the hardwood for his 19th season in the league, he’ll have no shortage of suitors, Stein reports in a separate tweet. According to Stein, numerous contending teams would be interested in adding O’Neal to their rosters, including the Warriors, Cavs, Clippers, and Mavericks.
O’Neal had a solid season in Golden State last year, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in a little over 20 minutes per contest, which was good for a respectable 15.3 PER rating. His career averages are 13.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1.8 BPG.
Golden State would seemingly have a leg up on the competition for O’Neal’s services, since the team has been in regular contact with O’Neal since the 2013/14 campaign came to a close. Although, back in September, GM Bob Myers intimated that his team would be content to stick with Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, and Ognjen Kuzmic at the pivot. But with Golden State out to a blistering 19-2 start to the season, which is tops in the NBA, returning to Oakland would seemingly be more appealing than ever for O’Neal. It would also be a wise move on the franchise’s part given Bogut’s injury history. Golden State also happens to have an available roster slot, so the team wouldn’t need to release a player to accommodate signing O’Neal.
Out of the rest of the contending teams mentioned in Stein’s tweet, Cleveland could also be an intriguing proposition for O’Neal, though the Cavs would need to release a player to be able to sign him. With the Cavs gunning for a title this season, as well as badly needing interior help, O’Neal may look at the easier path to the NBA Finals in the East as a viable alternative to returning to Golden State.