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O’Neal: ‘I Feel The Best I Have In 5 Years’
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On July 17, 2012 @ 6:56 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Even after 16 years in the NBA and six All-Star appearances, the fire to compete and play still burns greatly within free agent big man Jermaine O’Neal. He’s been working relentlessly this offseason in order to get into a position where he feels comfortable playing a 17th season and he’s almost there.
“Well since I was asked not to score too much last year, I still feel like I have a lot left,” O’Neal said to HOOPSWORLD. “I had the injury with the wrist but it’s fine, the body feels good. You try to make an educated decision on whether or not you’re going to come back based off how you feel. I had a three-step process this summer making that decision hopefully. I’m well into the second step right now which is the actual court, physical training and conditioning. It’s going good so far. I’m still going to take my time and make the proper decision not only for myself but for a team that’s trying to sign me.”
The Los Angeles Lakers had enough interest in O’Neal’s progress to send general manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach Mike Brown to watch him work out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, Nevada. During that workout, O’Neal ran full court without laboring, dunked repeatedly and showed that he can still move pretty well for a 33-year-old with his level of mileage. And, who was it that introduced him to the fountain of youth? None other than Lakers star shooting guard Kobe Bryant.
“Me and Kobe have had extensive conversations,” O’Neal said. “It started in Germany a month and a half ago, it started with the treatment. We talked a lot about it. Last week, when they were here in town for the Olympic workouts, we got together quite a few times and talked a lot about it. He told me his view of how he saw his next few years going and what he was trying to do. I told him my view of how I felt, where I’m at and how I would fit in if that was to happen. I told him I just want to continue to work hard, train and see what happens.”
It’s no secret that Bryant is all about winning as many championships as he can before he calls it a career. While he already has five to his credit, he has no interest in stopping there. O’Neal and Bryant are on the same page.
“That’s the only goal,” O’Neal said. “Winning a championship is the only goal. There’s no guarantee in this league, everything has to go right to win. I know that personally. It’s not about money because if I sign, it will be for the minimum. I’ve made a ton of money in this league. The NBA has been very good to me and my family so it’s not about that. It’s about being healthy and being strong. And again this is by far the best I’ve felt in five years. Between the treatment in Germany and my coaches here, strength and conditioning coaches and basketball coaches, it’s been a really good relationship between the three. I’m looking forward to it we’ll see what happens.”
Whether or not O’Neal ends up helping Bryant in his quest for more championships is still up in the air. O’Neal definitely seemed open to the idea, but what’s most important for him is finding the right fit.
“Well you have to go somewhere where you really fit,” O’Neal said. “That’s just how it is. I had a fantastic time in Boston, an unbelievable sports town, fans and organization. But it wasn’t necessarily the best fit basketball wise. Your comfort level is everything. Sometimes when you’re asked not to worry about some of the stronger parts of your game, which is scoring, and only [focus on] defense, that’s difficult to do.
“I’m not stupid, I don’t think I can go for 20 every night anymore, but I do believe I can go for 20 on any given night. It’s just about finding a position whether it’s coming off the bench or starting, whether its 15 minutes or 30 minutes, whatever the coaches ask you to do it’s just about having the opportunity to be yourself. I just want to get to the level that I know I’m physically right.
“Once that happens, basketball doesn’t change,” O’Neal added. “They say it’s like tying your shoes. You keep the same routine. The basic techniques stay the same. You don’t jump as high or run as fast anymore, but the basic technique stays the same. This process has been a very tedious process. I came in this summer with a blank canvas not worrying about anything I’ve done before. It’s about getting back to the bare techniques of running, jumping and training. I’m back to doing squats, lunges, resistance and speed work. It’s probably one of those things you have to see to believe. I do them every day, five or six hour days.”
Based off O’Neal’s confidence, it definitely seems like everyone will get a chance to see and believe it for themselves during the 2012-13 season. All that’s left is to decide who he’ll be proving himself with.
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