It's now impossible to turn Jermaine O'Neal into the Mavs bad guy. He's not willing to steal money and he's not trying to fool anybody. He's leaving us with the impression he isn't signing anywhere anytime soon, and perhaps at all.
"The people that know me,'' O'Neal tweeted on Monday, right as the Mavs were trying to close in on moves that would include the addition of O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire, "know that I'm not a huge social-media guy but I do use it when I need to express my feelings about something or about certain parts of my life. So saying that, I want to first thank every family member, friend, and fan that has showed me sooooo much love and support the last seven weeks through my process of trying to see if I could get through a very difficult period of getting my mind and body in shape in a very short period of time.
"I also want to thank all the teams that have showed so much interest and patients with me thru this process. When I decided in late December to look at the option on playing again I knew it was probably going to be one of my greatest challenges considering that I hadn't done any basketball training in the previous five months. But I was fully committed to taking on the challenge by investing a lot of time to traveling abroad to get the process started and dedicating my life to training multiple times a day for seven weeks.
"I've learned a lot through this process from a physical setback, to reconnecting with something that I loved for such a big part of my life, to being incredibly sore everyday but still pushing forward, but most importantly feeling if I was doing the right thing by my family by trying to go back to playing basketball and sacrificing more of their time with me. So as you can imagine it was a very emotional time ... But the best part of this process was walking out of the gym after every workout knowing that I could still play the game after 18 long years and hearing the teams that seen me workout all agreeing with that statement. Every team that wanted me to sign are all championship-contending teams and in order to (accept) their offer I need to be 100-percent ready to go physically and mentally from the time that I sign that contract with no room for error beyond that point.
"I don't feel like I'm at that position now with just seven weeks of training and I'm not comfortable making that commitment at this point. The issue for me is timing and things feeling right. I'm a true believer of signs and listening and understanding life. ... But just know I gave everything I had these last seven weeks and I greatly appreciate each and every one of you guys for the positive words of encouragement thru my process.''
That's the long version of JO's position. The short version?
After a medical visit in Germany and contemplation on the couch in Southlake, the 39-year-old former All-Star can't play NBA basketball right now.
It sounds tp us like he's just not physically able to play the game anymore, and is finally admitting that his body isn't responding as he has been hoping. It's aard to tell if he's leaving the door open, but sounds like he isn't. ... and how long would you like the big-man-needy Mavs to wait around, anyway?
Obviously, this explains the puzzling wait without him signing, which included an emergency Dallas Mavericks inking of Bernard James when a healthy JO coming downtown would've made more sense; he was still trying to do more, hoping his body would respond. And it just never did.
For those wondering, if JO wants to keep working out going forward, continuing to try to get his body where it needs to be to play, the deadline to sign him and have him playoff-eligible would be the last day of the regular season.
And if that ever happens?
We can set the scene of what we've long known about the situation here, when Premium Mavs Fans get the scoop on the "kink'' -- which, in short, has sources telling DB.com that while JO returned from his medical journey to Germany and seems ready to unretire, the Mavs wanted assurances of his good health before they grab him.
And, frankly, during this process, they had their doubts.
But, assuming he gets clearance and they get him: Judging from his last four seasons it was realistic to expect 20 minutes worth of floor time for a healthy O’Neal a night. His offensive numbers will be judged off of last season in Golden State, fair, seeing as the 2014 Warriors hold many similarities offensively to what the 2015 Mavericks could be on track to be.
The basic numbers boil down to 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 50.4-percent shooting and 75 percent from the line.
That's basic. And would be a big help.
When you start sniffing around the periphery at some of the other numbers, you can find some interesting digits. For instance, as our Mike Marshall points out, last season with Golden State ...
*O’Neal averaged 1.9 offensive rebounds per game in his 20 minutes on the court; the Mavericks only average 10 a game.
*The 102 defensive rating also jumps off the screen. (Tyson is at 103 this year).
The main numbers that interest us are, naturally, as this is Dallas' biggest issue, the rebounding percentage stats.
JO grabs 15 percent of the available rebounds when he’s on the court. That number isn’t exceptionally special for a center (Dalembert pulled down 19.4 percent last year) but you have to remember O’Neal was playing with Bogut and the rebound leech David Lee.
*With Phoenix the previous season he pulled down 16.2 percent of available rebounds and that’s an above average number. As a point of reference Greg Smith pulls down 12 percent (none) and Tyson Chandler pulls down 22 percent (all of the rebounds).
You’d like for Jermaine O'Neal to be a truly elite rebounder and there’s no way to hide the fact that he’s just an OK Windex man. But we say that in tandem with how good he has been defensively, with him being utilized by a top-notch coach in Rick Carlisle, and playing behind Tyson Chandler, he can be like a second-unit Emeregen-C for the Mavericks.
However, now, all of those projections look like more fantasy than reality. He has worked to push his body into NBA shape for seven weeks and it hasn't responded as needed. Another seven weeks is not likely to change anything.
Disappointing, as the Mavs missed out on a class act who is clearly unwilling to fake his way to a paycheck.