Jermaine O'Neal 'highly intrigued'

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Saturday, December 20, 2014

The acquisition of Rajon Rondo has given the Dallas Mavericks an undeniable edge in the race to lure veteran big man Jermaine O'Neal back to the NBA, according to league sources.

Sources told that O'Neal, who opted to spend the start of this season with family and focusing on business interests while deciding whether to come back for what would be his 19th season, is "highly intrigued" by the idea of joining the Mavericks as a free agent in the wake of the Rondo deal.

The deal not only theoretically elevated Dallas' stock as a Western Conference contender but also left it with a need on the front line after the exit of highly regarded reserve center Brandan Wright in the trade to the Celtics. reported last week that O'Neal -- a six-time All-Star who played two seasons alongside Rondo in Boston -- intends to make a definitive declaration about his playing future early in 2015. But sources said Friday that timetable might be moved up, since O'Neal would naturally need some time to work his way into game shape.

NBA front-office sources say that the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors are also among the teams with a strong interest in O'Neal should he decide to play on.

But O'Neal maintains his offseason home in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and has long been interested in joining the Mavericks to reunite with his former Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. Heading into the 2013-14 season, O'Neal had serious negotiations with the Mavericks before ultimately signing a deal with Golden State and enjoying a productive season as one of the Warriors' locker room leaders.

"He's had a terrific career," Carlisle told local reporters Friday. "He had a real solid year last year for Golden State despite having some injury issues. I have not talked to him yet myself. It's a possibility, but I don't want to jump the gun out of respect to him and his family. So we'll see. It's certainly one option."

Given the dearth of proven rim protectors in today's game, O'Neal is sure to be in high demand if he choose to keep playing, if not stirring up quite the frenzy Ray Allen would spark among various contenders should the free-agent sharpshooter decide in January or February that he's up for one more playoff run.

But the pull of spending more time with his children and immersing himself in his various business pursuits is a strong one for O'Neal. The Warriors acknowledged many times last season how fortunate they were to have convinced O'Neal to leave his Dallas-based family to play in Oakland.

In late October, O'Neal tweeted about how much he was enjoying the corporate world as well as watching 15-year-old daughter Asjia (who has rebounded from heart surgery to emerge as a highly rated high school volleyball player) and coaching 8-year-old son Jermaine Jr.'s basketball team.

Related Video