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.