Jermaine O’Neal Closer to Return, Mavericks Still Favorite?


Jermaine O’Neal has been linked to the Dallas Mavericks ever since they acquired Rajon Rondo in late December. It’s a good fit for both parties. The Mavericks need to bolster their front court rotation after losing super-sub Brandan Wright to Boston in the trade for Rondo. O’Neal, 36, wants another crack at a championship and sees a defined role for himself on a contender with the Mavericks. He also has a history with head coach Rick Carlisle from their days in Indiana.

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Still, despite the chatter, the process has been drawn out with no real information emerging from either side. O’Neal, who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has insisted that his family and their approval will play a big role in whether or not he plays this season. The Mavericks have made do with Greg Smith and Charlie Villanueva logging minutes up front, winning six of their eight games with Rondo and five in a row.

But it appears as if O’Neal indeed has plans to play this season. He posted a photo of himself on Instagram receiving treatment on his knees in Germany.

Most retired NBA players don’t take a 10-hour flight to Germany to get revolutionary knee treatment just for kicks, so it’s a strong indication that O’Neal will make a return to the association. But are the Mavericks still the front runner for his services?

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It’s hard to say. We know that O’Neal wouldn’t make a comeback for a bottom dweller, but the Mavericks aren’t the only contender in need of the veteran big man. The Cleveland Cavaliers could have used him even before Anderson Verejao went down with a season-ending Achilles tear. Now they need him even more. Tristan Thompson isn’t a true center, and though a good rebounder does not protect the rim. Same goes for Kevin Love, a borderline practice dummy on the defensive end.

The Cavs have underachieved this season, partly due to injuries, partly because they have some real, undeniable flaws. But O’Neal could help solve their lack of an interior presence, and the thought of playing with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love has to be intriguing for him. They have an easier path to the finals in the east, probably the best player on the planet, and because of these two facts have as good a shot as anyone come playoff time.

It’ll be a tough decision for O’Neal, but for now it appears as if Dallas has the inside track. He’s getting closer to being ready to go, stay tuned.

Next: Game Grades in Rondo's Return to Boston