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Phoenix Suns

Updated Oct 10, 2012 - 2:11 pm

Jermaine O'Neal: 'I feel really good'

Ike Diogu and Jermaine O'Neal in the scrimmage in San Diego. (Photo: Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)

Once upon a time, Jermaine O'Neal was one of the NBA's premier big men.

A six-time All-Star who averaged 20.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game from 2001-2007, the 17th-overall selection in the 1996 draft has had a very productive career.

It's a career many felt was near its end due to wear and tear and injuries, but the new Suns center disagrees with that idea.

"I felt a little bit run down the last few years, but I had a fantastic summer," O'Neal told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Wednesday. "Really kind of changed the body, changed the mindset.

"And I feel really good and that's the reason why I chose to come to Phoenix."

O'Neal said the reputation of Phoenix's training staff also played a role in his decision to join the Suns, and while he doesn't enter his 17th season with the same expectations and fanfare as in the past, he is confident he has plenty to offer.

Some may think differently.

O'Neal is coming off a pair of seasons in Boston that saw his scoring average dip from 13.6 in 2009-10 with the Heat to 5.4 and 5.0 with the Celtics.

The center looked more like a washed-up player than someone who was ready to make an impact. He's looking to prove that's not the case.

"I think sometimes, as athletes, we don't really keep it as honest as we should," O'Neal said. "We don't want to look into the mirror sometimes and evaluate where we're at.

"I think it was very important for me to do that. I'm not playing for any money; that's not the reason I'm playing."

Instead, O'Neal said he's playing "for respect for myself," that it does not matter what others are saying about him or his basketball skills.

So, he set out to get himself healthy and ready to play, making sure he gives himself the best possible chance to show he's still got it.

He also thinks leaving Beantown will help.

"If it doesn't go right then I know it's time," he said. "I just felt like the last two years in Boston I wasn't necessarily as happy. It wasn't a great fit for me, but more than anything I didn't work as hard as I needed to to put myself in a better position."

O'Neal said he allowed certain parts of the business to dictate how he felt, which is what he set out to address this past summer.

And once he made the decision that he "didn't want it to end like this", the choice was made to make the necessary changes to get back on the court at a high level.

"So I went back and did detox," he said. "I detoxed for a month and a half; I really just changed everything."

A rejuvenated O'Neal could pay big dividends for the Suns, as they are thin up front behind starting center Marcin Gortat. While no one is expecting a return to his All-Star form, it sounds like the center is ready to prove he's not done yet.


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