Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Indiana Pacers have agreed in principle to send six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford and the 17th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. Toronto also will send Rasho Nesterovic and another role player to match up with O’Neal’s salary. O’Neal is owed $44 million over the next two seasons.
O’Neal has played in an average of 52 games the previous four seasons because of injuries, illnesses and suspensions. Jermaine underwent surgery in 2007 to repair a torn meniscus cartilage. He attempted a comeback this season but was forced to shut it down after suffering a bruise to his surgically repaired left knee.
Ford is a talented point guard but if O’Neal can make a full recovery, this will be a steal for the Toronto Raptors.
I had the opportunity to watch Jermaine O’Neal live in what may have been his best NBA season. On March 7, 2004 O’Neal and the Pacers played the Nuggets in Denver. Jermaine put up 31 points and 10 rebounds in a 103-94 win. I remember the game vividly.
Two things stick out the most:
1. Carmelo Anthony — a rookie at the time — absolutely torched Ron Artest. Artest would go on to win the Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Jermaine O’Neal was incredibly versatile. He scored on an assortment of postmoves. With his back to the basket, he also possessed a deadly fadeaway jumpshot from twenty feet.
O’Neal, Artest, Al Harrington, and Reggie Miller (the fourth leading scorer) led the Pacers to the best record in the NBA that season. Jermaine finished third in the MVP voting.
At twenty-nine years of age, O’Neal has plenty of time to turn his career around. Given Jermaine’s age and his talent level, this was a potential reward that is worth the risk for Toronto.
With two All-Star pivotmen (JO, Chris Bosh) and up-and-coming point guard Jose Calderon running the show, the Toronto Raptors are going to be a force in the East.