The Phoenix Suns have smoothed out the last rough spot on their reconstructed roster by signing free agent center Jermaine O’Neal, The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reports.
The 6-foot-11, 255-pound veteran most recently played for the Boston Celtics, where while not a mainstay in the lineup due to injury, he was still productive when he was on the court. He averaged 5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.8 minutes a game this past season, but O’Neal only appeared in 25 contests (24 starts) after undergoing wrist surgery.
The bigger injury issues for the big man are his knee problems. Drafted out of high school by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1996, the wear has taken its toll, and Coro reports that this summer O’Neal underwent the same German procedure in both of his knees that Grant Hill and Kobe Bryant had done. So cue the obligatory revitalization of a veteran by the Suns’ training staff point.
But experience and shot blocking — in his limited minutes last year, O’Neal averaged 1.7 blocks a night — was one thing the new-era Suns needed the most. Though Phoenix will have a front line of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola presumably starting in 2012-13, along with Markieff Morris and Channing Frye coming off the bench, O’Neal gives the Suns a defensive presence that will be needed.
Remember, Gortat only averaged 1.5 blocks a game in 32 minutes an outing this past season. Especially considering they’ll be seeing a lot more of Dwight Howard, who was officially traded to the Los Angeles Lakers today, O’Neal should be the final piece to the puzzle as we look toward the season.
O’Neal becomes the 13th man on the Phoenix roster and as a six-time All-Star brings career averages of 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a night.
The Suns were supposedly offering a one-year, league-minimum deal, according to Coro.
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