Suns ‘just felt right’ for Jermaine O’Neal, who feels five years younger after offseason knee treatment


PHOENIX — It’s long been assumed that Grant Hill will have a role waiting for him in the Phoenix Suns’ organization upon retirement, yet even during a summer in which he departed for the Los Angeles Clippers he still aided the Suns’ recruitment of a free agent.

Back two and a half months ago when Hill was still a Suns free agent, he spent time in Germany with Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O’Neal getting the famed Orthokine treatment. One day Hill told O’Neal he really needs to consider Phoenix because of the training staff and how well it can take care of him.

At the time O’Neal was only concerned with the procedure and feeling healthy enough to come back for a 17th NBA season, but when he received a call from Phoenix later in the summer he immediately thought back to that conversation.

“I always knew that training staff was phenomenal,” O’Neal said Wednesday on a conference call after officially signing a one-year, $1.35 million minimum deal with the Suns. “The word around the league to most players is the training staff can really take the body and kind of put three, four years onto [their career] just by the things that they do to the body. That did have an impact on my decision as well. I wanted to be able to take what I did this summer and continue to build on it with the great training staff, and I felt like I was getting that with the Suns.

“Your health is everything. It doesn’t matter what you can do physically on the court if you don’t have that health and you don’t have people that can really address the health issues then it doesn’t really matter what you can do physically, and those are some of the things that [Hill] talked about.”

O’Neal, 33, needs to look no further than his Orthokine buddy Hill for proof of that, as Hill is set to play during his age 40 season following five seasons with the Suns’ training staff.

When the offseason started, O’Neal was not sure if he had any more seasons left in his body after struggling through a pair of injury-plagued campaigns in Boston. JO could only get through 24 games in 2010-11 and then 25 in 2011-12 before undergoing left wrist surgery in late March.

First, O’Neal wanted to see how his wrist would respond to the surgery, and once that healed he decided to head to Germany for Orthokine, which involves “centrifuging the patient’s blood and using the serum as an anti-inflammatory drug,” according to Medilogy.net (click here for more on the treatment).

O’Neal said he felt better even after the first day of the five-day treatment, and now it has put him “in a fantastic position to be very successful physically for the Suns this year. It allowed me to go back and do some of the things I haven’t been able to do on the knee the last five or six years.”

By that he’s talking about track sprints, lunges and squats, and for the first in two years he feels comfortable with where he is at physically after a summer in which he improved by “leaps and bounds” in that department.

In fact, O’Neal said he feels five years younger, and the Suns would be ecstatic if they got anything close to the 13.6 points and 6.8 boards that a 29-year-old O’Neal produced five years ago just one season removed from being a 20-10 guy.

Based on how important health is to O’Neal after never staying on the floor in Boston, it seems obvious why he picked Phoenix, especially since other teams offered more money.

“When I met with the Suns it just felt right,” O’Neal said. “It felt like I could go there and be effective on and off the court, and I could go there and be happy playing basketball again. That was just one of the key things. It was just the feeling and the chemistry and really being wanted and being played in areas I feel comfortable being played in. I felt the Phoenix Suns’ organization represented everything I wanted going into my 17th year. I felt like this was perfect for me, and that’s the reason why I signed.”

Along with adding a veteran presence (only Bassy Telfair has played even half as many NBA seasons as O’Neal), JO plans to bring the kind of toughness that Suns teams have generally lacked.

His outside assessment of the franchise is that the Suns have always been considered “very nice,” whereas he feels he has an “aggressive personality” that could rub off on this new era of Phoenix basketball.

He also does not care whether he starts or comes off the bench despite primarily starting during his past 12 NBA seasons, but what else can he say with Gortat entrenched at the center spot and a slew of capable four men manning the power forward spot?

Furthermore, O’Neal said he does not want anything given to him, he wants to earn whatever role he grows into, which is encouraging since it’s possible he’s the odd man out of the big man rotation if his regression continues following the disappointing years in Boston in which he wasn’t that great even when he was on the court. At the same time, he said he hopes to be “impactful,” which would be difficult to do from the bench.

At first glance it may be unclear what O’Neal’s motivation was to work so hard this offseason on getting his body right for a comeback to play on a minimum contract for a likely non-contender with a superb starting center and a deep front court rotation.

O’Neal said his career has been about proving himself over and over again and getting back up after being knocked down.

Well, he was knocked down after his poor stint in Boston that some felt was the end for him, and now he wants to prove himself one last time.

But only to one person.

“To myself,” O’Neal said. “I’m only proving stuff to myself that I can do this and I still have a lot to give. It’s not about any critics, it’s not about any fans, it’s not about anything but to me personally. When I looked into the mirror I wasn’t quite happy with what I was seeing at that particular time this summer.

“Nothing’s given health-wise, nothing’s given on the court with what you can do as far as your output, but I look forward to this. Everything feels good right now. I’m looking forward to this opportunity, so we’ll see come Oct. 1.”

And 1

  • The Suns announced that they have waived Brad Miller and Jerome Dyson, the two players acquired from New Orleans in the Robin Lopez trade. This was more a formality than anything else, although trading Miller’s non-guaranteed contract could have proven advantageous as it already has in two deals this summer. The Suns will owe Miller his $848,000 of guaranteed money, and Dyson will be waived without a cap hit. The team’s roster now stands at 13, so it’s unlikely they make any more moves.
  • Babby on the signing: “We are very, very happy that he has selected the Suns over a number of very attractive alternatives. Jermaine O’Neal is a very, very accomplished NBA player who has had a very, very successful NBA career. He brings a pedigree to us that will help us not only on the court but in the locker room as we need that kind of veteran leadership with our younger group, so we are more than happy that Jermaine will be joining our group.”

Tags: Jermaine O'neal

  • Scott

    With waiving Miller, and the Suns at 13, it looks like the Suns feel they’re done with the roster.

    Probably the best situation for the Suns involving O’Neal is if he plays remarkably well, and consequently the Suns are able to deal him to a team that needs a cheap veteran big in exchange for another asset.

  • bk

    It’s just a 1-year rental both sides. This role should be filled by a rookie next year.

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.ca JT’s Hoops Blog

    IDK why does not JO retire. He obviously has nothing left in the tank and he’s starting to look embarrassing in his last couple of years. Some people just need to know when to quit.

  • sun also rises

    For having a hoops blog you make a lot of rube comments JT. O’Neal was so banged up over the last few years that he played less than fifty games TOTAL and came back from injuries before he got the green light because the Celtics had nobody else to play a legitimate five for them. If he looked “embarrassing” then it was because he was doing an impossible job of playing young dude minutes (20+ mpg) while hurting badly for the sake of the team.

    I know it’s all about trying to get people to click your blog with these silly generic comments about the topic of the day but at least try to put SOME effort into it?

  • Andrew

    +1
    If I remember correctly, Grant Hill looked done before he came to Phoenix. Silence the haters JO!!!

  • Andres

    The Suns team in general – not only JO – will silence all of those that think this team is going to finish 14 o 15th in the west.
    I agree this current team comes with a lot of IF’s but I’m optimistic that we’ll win more wins than the ones projected by the majority of the analysts.

  • Andres

    Here’s just one example of what people think about the Suns: The following was taken from our friends ar hornets24x7.com

    “The Suns, Wizards, and Bucks are all stuck with middle-aged, sub-par rosters that have absolutely no shot at a championship and not much room for change”

    http://www.hornets247.com/2012/08/14/the-new-orleans-hornets-place-in-the-current-nba-landscape/

    I’m sure we have no shot at a title right now but to say the Suns are stucked with a middle-age-sub par roster and not much room for change is not really that accurate (taking into account that the both Scola and JO are not in the long term plans)

  • sun also rises

    @Andres the funny part is the blog writer pretty much shot-called the state of the Suns a few lines down…..

    “The Warriors and Rockets both have some nice rebuilding pieces, but also a couple of contracts that make you wonder if they’re trying to rebuild and compete at the same time, a strategy that could end up costing them dearly in the future.”

    That sounds a hell of a lot more like PHX right now than the first blurb does!

  • Andres

    @sun also rises – I agree with you. We will need to wait and see how the pieces fit together and if some of the players like Beasley and Dragic end up playing consistent basketball. Hopefully the pieces will gel quickly and help the team be at least a .500 team

  • .

    I bet Kobe was right next to Grant telling O’Neal that if he wanted to win he should sign with LA. O’Neal probably will sign with Lakers next season after he has a rejuvenating season with the Suns. I don’t know why the NBA bothers to expand if the same big market teams will always have an advantage over smaller ones.

  • Tony

    @Andres,

    Most objective NBA analyists have the Suns ranked in the bottom tier of the league. I think it was John Hollinger who ranked the Suns as the third worst team in the league, with the Bobcats and Magic only worse.

    These rankings are largely based on what the Suns starting players have contributed thus far in their respective careers and not upon an optimistic basis of assuming that players like Beasley, Johnson, and even Dragic will appreciably improve

    Personally, I don’t believe the Suns will finish the season as poorly as Hollinger and most prognastactors predict, but I’m not expecting them to finish any higher than 12th in the western conference nor even finish with a .500 record. We all have to remember that the Suns are one of the few teams to have such an overhaul in terms of the roster and that it takes time for players to develop chemistry with each other. Furthermore, because the Suns still don’t have much talent, it makes it that much more difficult for them to gel. Lastly, unlike the past few seasons in which the Suns had a decisive advantage with two effective bigs, albeit Lopez was very inconsistent, but nonetheless, most teams don’t have that kind of size advantage. This season, the Suns will have a smaller team and thus, now they don’t possess any inherent advantage against other teams.

  • Scott

    Of the current Suns starters, Dragic has only played with Scola … and Dudley too, if he starts.

    Marshall has only played with Morris on what will likely be his squad.

    So while the Suns are going to get a full training camp and pre-season this year, I’d be inclined to expect that the Suns won’t start out with good chemistry.

    Furthermore, Gentry is unfamiliar with 6 of his players this year, which is practically half the team. (They are: Scola, O’Neal, Beasley, Johnson, Marshall, and Tucker.)

    Those same 6 players are also unfamiliar with the Suns’ system. They’ll need time to adjust. We know from past experience that it can take some players somewhere between half a season and a full season to adjust to the style the Suns play.

    Even with those caveats, it’s hard to imagine the Suns being one of the 3 worst teams in the league. Though Nash and Hill are gone, the Suns do have some talent. I think the Suns are likely to be around the top of the bottom half of the league, just like last year.

  • sun also rises

    @Scott The real question is what our system is right now. The up-shot is that Suns basketball as we know it no longer exists with Nash in Bandwagon Country USA which means that Gentry has room to build with the new talent.

    The down side is that Suns basketball as we know it no longer exists with Nash in Bandwagon Country USA which means that Gentry has room to build with the new talent. The best thing they can do is trust that Dragic came back from TX with a new bag of tricks and stop trying to turn him into a junior cadet version of Nash… in any case the last embers of SSOL are dead. That’s either a good thing or a real bad thing but it’s the truth of being a Suns fan right now

  • Ty-Sun

    Yes, SSOL is gone and hopefully Gentry won’t try to force this team to play that style. I think the players a suited to an up-tempo game but I also think they have more defensive potential than last year’s team. They should fast break whenever possible but fast breaks are best started by defensive rebounding or steals. I just hope that this team tries to focus on defense because if they just try to outscore other teams then they will wind up near the bottom in the West.

  • sun also rises

    That is true Ty. In any case it will be weird to see a PG who plays pretty lock-down defense (Always been a big fan of how Dragon isn’t afraid to get up in his opponent’s jersey) and who can actually penetrate fairly well instead of settling for spot up jumpers.

    But between Scola, Gortat and Dragic there are some pretty capable defenders who play hard. I don’t know what the offense will look like but imagine that the high pick and roll will be back but with additional kick out plays. Dragic may or may not be able to draw in defenders like Nash did off the dribble but one thing he stopped doing in Houston was hesitating on the drive (though his turnovers and ball protection still need big time work).

  • Animan

    Barring back to the original JO talks, I feel that mid-season the suns should trade a package of Frye and Telfair for either a role player or draft picks + cash. With JO feeling the way he does, and my hope is that he proves himself out there, we won’t require Frye any longer.

  • Ty-Sun

    Frye is going to have to prove himself after returning from his injury before any team will even think about trading for him. If Scola and Morris work out well as the 1-2 punch at PF and Gortat and O’Neal do the same at C then Frye could have a difficult time getting minutes when he does return. If Frye’s contract was expiring then a fairly good trade (for the Suns) might be possible but it isn’t. His contract runs through the 2014-15 season. And Telfair’s trade value is minimal. I like the guy but I’m being realistic.

  • shazam

    im more excited about this team than last years…thank god it was a short one