Jermaine O’Neal Jr. turns seven in a couple of weeks.
He is not ready for his dad to retire.
“He asked me was I going to play again,” the elder O’Neal said, relaying a recent conversation with his son. “I asked him why. He said he likes going to the games, which is rare because he never liked going to the games up until this year.”
Chances are good there will be more games to go to.
“I do plan on playing again next year,” said O’Neal, who up until this week had not publicly committed to continuing a career that began in 1996.
“My mental thoughts are to come back.”
O’Neal, 34, said he plans to take a week off, then start CrossFit workouts “at the beginner level” before heading to Germany the first week of June to undergo Orthokine treatment on both knees for a second straight summer.
“If I feel great, then I will for sure play,” he said. “Where I’m going to play at? Who knows. You can’t control that. You just kind of wait until that happens. We’ll see.”
Though he missed 11 of the final 22 games, including the final three because of a bruised left shin, O’Neal — in his first season with the Suns — played 55 games, six more than he had played in his previous two seasons combined in Boston. He averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in nearly 19 minutes per night.
At times O’Neal, the team’s second-best shooter and third-leading rebounder, was the best big man on the floor, often finding himself on the court late in games.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I can still play and really help a team in a major way, defensively, offensively,” he said. “I feel like whoever I go to, whether it’s back here or wherever it is, next year they are going to get an even more determined Jermaine, that’s physically fit.”
O’Neal has spent half his life in the NBA. If he does indeed return for an 18th season, he is not opposed to doing so with the Suns.
“I’ve enjoyed this experience,” he said. “Obviously, it hasn’t gone the way we want, win-loss wise. These guys on this team have been every bit of brothers to me. We’ve stuck together. I’ve seen teams, really good teams that didn’t stick together as well as we’ve stuck together. That says a lot about the character of the guys.
“Hopefully,” O’Neal continued, “we understand as a team what it takes to have a losing season and what it takes to have a winning season. Guys have something to build off of coming out of this season, going into next season.”