The door has been shut, at least for now, for Jermaine O’Neal‘s return to the NBA. After attempting to get himself into game shape, the 18-year veteran announced that “the time isn’t right” for a comeback. From O’Neal’s Instagram page:
The Mavericks will welcome Amar’e Stoudemire once he officially clears waivers, but missing out on O’Neal stings a bit. They were looking for a defensive minded backup center for Tyson Chandler, and while Stoudemire will help on the defensive glass, he’s a question mark health-wise and not known for his defensive prowess.
Now, to be fair, O’Neal was a question mark as well. Nobody knows how things would have turned out. As previously mentioned, he’s an 18-year vet with an odometer that reads like Chandler Parson‘s salary. He could have replicated his play last season with the Golden State Warriors, or he could have been a disaster. At this point we’ll likely never know.
So where do the Mavericks turn?
Emeka Okafor was on the early radar, but it’s doubtful he plays before next season as he recovers from a herniated disk in his neck. Andray Blatche doesn’t solve the defensive issues, and it’s sounding like he’ll re-up in China anyways. Larry Sanders is a possibility, but he hasn’t yet reached a buyout with the Milwaukee Bucks. His talent isn’t in question, but his off-court decision making certainly is. And, if the Mavericks do have interest if and when he’s bought out, they’ll surely have competition for his services.
The most probable scenario for Dallas is standing pat. They signed Bernard James to a 10-Day contract when Chandler went down with an ankle injury against the Los Angeles Clippers heading into the All-Star break, and will likely retain him for the rest of the season. He scored 9 points, came down with 3 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots in his first game back.
It’s doubtful that he’ll continue that type of production but he’s a better option than Greg Smith or Dwight Powell, at least for the time being. If James’ play allows Chandler ample rest throughout the rest of the season his job has been done. Rotations shrink come playoff time, and his role will be reduced with Chandler playing more minutes.
So, all things considered, it could be worse for Dallas. They added defensive rebounding and some scoring punch off the bench with Stoudemire, and brought back a player familiar with the system to provide some beef down low in “Sarge”. Would O’Neal have been a nice addition? Sure, but the Mavericks are in a better place now than they were a week ago.
Once everyone is healthy and jelling, watch out.
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