Among the members of the Unhappy Superstars Club – yes, there’s an unofficial club: Kobe is the Chairman; KG retired from the group a few months back – Jermaine O’Neal seems to be the forgotten man. Injuries have certainly played a role, as has the Pacers’ wholly surprising early season success (Indiana is at .500 and has gone 5-1 without their star forward.)
With O’Neal in street clothes, the Pacers have been running more and are averaging well over 100 points per game, and even though everyone involved with the franchise is trying to remain diplomatic, there’s concern as to how J.O will fit back into the team once he returns. From the Indy Star:
With him, they have averaged 99.8 points and once lost six consecutive games. They’ve been held to 90 or fewer points five times this season. All five times O’Neal played, and the Pacers are 1-4 in those games.
“We’ve made strides as a team, but those strides will be even greater when Jermaine gets back,” said [Jim] O’Brien, who is coaching his first scoring post player. “We run the same offense with or without him. We run the same defense with or without him.”
If Jermaine’s return to the hardwood stagnates the offense and, worst of all, triggers a collapse, the time for diplomacy (and O’Neal’s career in Pacer white and gold) may well come to an end very quickly.