Despite saying that he thinks it is time to move on and really likes the idea of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Jermaine O’Neal is not demanding a trade, so he says. One day after he said that he thinks “it’s time for me to move on…and the Lakers are the team I want Indiana to trade me to,” O’Neal claims that he is not seeking a trade out of Indiana.
The subject of numerous trade rumors before the trade deadline last season, O’Neal remained with the Pacers, the team he has played for and led for the past seven seasons. One of the biggest trade speculations had O’Neal being traded to the Los Angles Lakers after Kobe Bryant made it clear that he would love to play with his old friend. Bryant and O’Neal were both drafted out of high school in the same year and have remained close since.
O’Neal, playing in the annual L.A. Stars charity basketball game, made some rather curt comments regarding his current situation in Indiana and made it very clear that he wants out and wants to be sent to Los Angeles. “Larry Bird is a hard man to deal with,” O’Neal said. “He tries to make unfair trades. He wants to gut a team, but the Lakers are trying to get over the hump. I want Indiana to benefit, but with some nice young players and draft picks. I want to make it clear that I don’t want to gut a team that I come to because then it’ll be like I’m in Indiana all over again.”
He then followed up with a clear threat for the future: “If things don’t work, I have an option in my contract next year and I will opt out and become a free agent.” Despite these threats, O’Neal also claims that he is not demanding a trade.
“I don’t think me saying I’d like to go with those teams is me saying I want to be traded,” he said. Well, I think that is exactly what he is saying. O’Neal has made it clear that he does not want to be a part of a rebuilding program and that he will turn his back on the franchise that made him an NBA star.
O’Neal averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 69 games last season, the most he has played in a single year since the 2003-04 campaign.