The Other O'Neal Debuts

Jermaine ONeal attend The Floyd Mayweather Vs Sugar Shane Mosley Fight on May 1, 2010 in Las Vegas (Photos by Celeb2Celeb / Meet The Famous.) Photo via Newscom

With all the hullabaloo over Shaq, the other O’Neal got lost in the shuffle. But the spotlight will be on Jermaine if he does indeed make his debut in green, as expected, at the Garden this evening against the Toronto Raptors, who he had a brief cameo with in 2009.

Last time we saw Jermaine O’Neal on the court, he was putting the finishes touches on what can only be described as one of the worst playoff series in recent memory. O’Neal, who will turn 32 on Wednesday, couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting 20 percent from the field in a five-game brickfest. His PER was a paltry 2.5; for comparison, the worst regular season PER last year belonged to Dallas/Washington forward Quinton Ross, a defensive specialist, at 3.04.

Still, that string of poor play from O’Neal was probably more of an aberration than a sign of things to come. As a 14-year veteran, he certainly isn’t the same player that was once the franchise in Indiana (and one of the best post defenders in the game), or the player that was nearly traded straight-up for Paul Pierce when he was in Portland. But it is worth noting that despite that poor offensive showing the playoffs, O’Neal had the best field goal percentage of his career last season and also stayed steady in his scoring and rebounding numbers, averaging nearly 14 points to go along with seven boards a game.

With similar minutes—read, somewhere in the 25-30 range—it is reasonable to expect him to stay produce along those lines if he is healthy.

This is an important time for Jermaine O’Neal, as it looks like Shaq might have taken his starting role. JO was penciled in as a first-team player before his injury, and there is still a shot he takes that role back. With Shaq resting at practice yesterday, it will be interesting to see how much he plays (if at all) as JO gets his minutes.

The key for Jermaine O’Neal is getting a chance to play with the rest of the starters so Doc can see how he will mesh with the entrenched four. With all the negativity concerning how Shaq would fit in with Rajon Rondo, I haven’t seen too many troublesome areas as of yet. But just the thought that Shaq might fit in better with the second unit could be enough to give JO a spot in the first five—if he produces.

Avery Bradley returned to practice (though it doesn’t look like he will play yet), as did Delonte West after his back issues. But all eyes should be on Jermaine O’Neal if he does play today. The Celtics gave him a pretty good amount of money to come in and hold the fort down while Kendrick Perkins is out. Let’s see if he is worth it.

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