Jermaine O'Neal Interview
The Indiana Pacers recently paid a visit to Madison Square Garden. Although they lost to the New York Knicks, Indiana does still sit atop the entire league in the winning percentage column. InsideHoops.com and other media spoke with All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal before the game. A quick portion of the interview is below. We'll post the rest later this afternoon.
Question: Does it surprise you at all how quickly Isiah Thomas helped the Knicks?
Jermaine O'Neal: He's a very aggressive guy. And I don't think he got a lot of credit for what he did with Indiana. He inherited a team that nobody, pretty much players that nobody wanted. He brought in me, and I didn't play in Portland, Al Harrington, Jon Bender, Jamaal Tinsley two years in college, and made us a playoff team every single year. We got better every single year. And people didn't really see that, and I guess because the team had just come off a finals appearance, and they wanted the team to be back in the finals. But when you totally rehaul a team and put players in a position that they're not used to being in, then you have to go through a rebuilding period. I think we were able to rebuild, and also compete at the same time. And he was a big reason why we was able to do that. He's a guy who has a huge influence on you away from basketball. So once he gets that influence on you away from basketball, basketball's going to fall into place.
Question: You found out about Isiah being fired while you were competing internationally in Puerto Rico. How long were you resentful for?
Jermaine O'Neal: It kind of disappeared after I left Puerto Rico. My committment was to the city of Indiana, to my teammates, to the fans, our organization. I just didn't like the way it was done. Donnie Walsh, he probably did something that probably no other GM in the NBA would have did, trade an all-star player for pretty much an unproven player. Coming off an NBA finals appearance, nobody really knew much about me. But he rolled the dice, and he had total confidence in me. To be mad at somebody who gave me an opportunity to really rejuvinate my career, it's just hard to do. I really understand the business a lot more now, that I can only control what happens on the court. Business-wise, the CEOs and presidents going to do what they feel is best. I'm happy. I knew going back to this situation that we had an opportunity to be a good team. People look at the East and say, "okay, they're a good team in the East..." but we're a good team against anybody. I always felt like we had the perimeter play, we had the inside-out scoring play, that can really play with anybody. The West, the East, the Midwest, different world, whatever, whatever you want to say, I feel like at the end of the day, this year we're a lot more mature, I feel like we're going to be the team that's going to bring the championship back to the East.
Question: Talk about the committment this team has made to you and the firing of Isiah.
Jermaine O'Neal: That type of committment that the Pacers made to me, seven-year deal and what the contract was worth, was really putting a lot on my shoulders. It was no way that I was going to come back into the season (complaining) about Isiah getting fired. I knew what the situation was, and it was over. There was nothing I could do, nothing I could have said to bring him back. So I was just ready to put my hard hat on and compete every night.
Question: Do you think Isiah will coach again?
Jermaine O'Neal: I think, just talking to him, he wants to coach. Before he got this job, he always wanted to coach. I think right now he's learning how to get that position, as far as being a president again. I don't think he'll coach in the next couple of years, but I think before it's all said and done, maybe four, five years down the road I think he'll be coaching again.
MORE JERMAINE O'NEAL COMING LATER ON FRIDAY.