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Will Galen
10-06-2004, 03:09 AM
http://www.indystar.com/articles/5/184149-4535-179.html

O'Neal rests, rebuilds body
Pacers' All-Star forward says he feels good after taking the summer to heal and bulk up.

Jermaine O'Neal, whose listed playing weight last season was 242 pounds, is pushing 260 at training camp.

By Sekou Smith
sekou.smith@indystar.com
October 6, 2004


What Jermaine O'Neal needed most after a four-year rise into the NBA's upper echelon was rest.

Rest from basketball, rest from the spotlight and rest from all the other trappings that come with being a 25-year-old superstar.

Strangely enough, it was O'Neal's aching body -- particularly his sore left knee -- that secured the down time he so desperately needed.

The Pacers' All-Star forward didn't go from the playoffs to his usual stint with USA Basketball, as he had the three previous summers.

Instead, he relaxed, reflected and then reshaped his body for training camp, which kicked off Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse. At 260 pounds, O'Neal is ready to carry the Pacers to places they've never been.

"I think rest I had in the summer will give me an opportunity to accomplish anything I want to accomplish this year, and that includes winning a championship and being MVP," said O'Neal, who finished third in the voting last season. "I feel great right now. I don't have to crawl my way through training camp. I'm happy. I'm definitely stronger and I feel like I'm quicker.

"And this is a big year for us. You can't win 61 games, get to the Eastern Conference finals and have a drop-off. You want to stay around 58 or 59 wins and stay in a position where you can compete for a championship again. And obviously, for us to do that, I have to come in play at a high level."

Pacers president Larry Bird expects no less.

"He's got to keep these guys together," Bird said of the increased leadership role O'Neal must assume this season. "You can talk all you want about all the guys here with a lot of talent. But when you boil it down, he and Ronnie (Artest) are the guys. And it has to be time for Jermaine to say, 'Hey, I'm the leader of this team.' He has to take over and lead by example."

After just one season with O'Neal, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said he saw promising leadership traits, though it might not have been apparent to those outside of the organization.

"I really believe Jermaine has shown leadership in an understated way, and a lot of times it was done by example, which is very similar to how Larry did it when he played," said Carlisle, a teammate of Bird's in Boston in the 1980s. "There's no doubt in my mind Jermaine is at a point where he's willing to do whatever it takes to get this team and this franchise to a championship level."

Evidence of that can be found in O'Neal's offseason work and how wise he was in his attack while being mindful of his physical limitations.

Rather than rushing back to make up for what might have been had he and Jamaal Tinsley been healthy in the conference finals, O'Neal plotted his revival like the savvy veteran he has become.

"My knee took a long time to heal," O'Neal said. "I got cleared the first week of August, worked out for two weeks and then I went to Malibu and worked out with Reggie (Miller) and came down on somebody's foot and went back into the air cast for two weeks.

"But my trainer out in L.A. really worked around it. I had the air cast on and we still found a way to do bike races, elliptical machines and other stuff to help improve my speed, agility and quickness."

O'Neal found time to indulge his relentless work ethic in other ways, such as in the weight room.

And the results are tangible. Not only did he add weight, he's healthier than ever. In addition to his left leg, knee and ankle feeling fine, he enters camp without the chronic back pain that has plagued him the past three seasons.

"It's a multilevel process," O'Neal said. "I kept my weight up last year. I ate right and worked hard on my game all year. Hiring my chef helped.

"But strengthwise, I felt myself losing a little bit late in the season. That's why I felt like I had to go back and work on my strength. I'm as heavy as I've ever been right now, but I'm feeling a lot better about my size now. I'm comfortable this way because I know I've increased the strength in my base and I'm still quick."

All that said, O'Neal remains hesitant about taking the reigns on what others insist is "his" team.

His unyielding respect for Miller, who ranks O'Neal among the league's top four big men along with Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, won't allow him to break out completely.

"Until Reggie walks away, I don't want to step in front of him unless he comes and says, 'J.O., we've got to do this for this team,' " O'Neal said.

"I don't want to be disrespectful to Reggie because he's the face of not only this team but this city. So until he retires I've got to continue to do what I've been doing."

Will Galen
10-06-2004, 03:14 AM
There's a picture at >

http://www.indystar.com/sports/pacers/

SoupIsGood
10-06-2004, 05:28 AM
I'm happy. I'm definitely stronger and I feel like I'm quicker.



Boom Baby!

Unclebuck
10-06-2004, 08:27 AM
"He's got to keep these guys together," Bird said of the increased leadership role O'Neal must assume this season. "You can talk all you want about all the guys here with a lot of talent. But when you boil it down, he and Ronnie (Artest) are the guys. And it has to be time for Jermaine to say, 'Hey, I'm the leader of this team.' He has to take over and lead by example."



I wanted to highlight this quote from Bird and just say that I could not agree more. That might scare some of you in regards to Artest, but the team will only be as good as J.O and Artest

ChicagoJ
10-06-2004, 10:13 AM
Bird has been very public with his expectations for Ronnie - which is certainly a change of pace from how everybody else has handled him - IT, Cartwright & Floyd, etc. all tried to keep things hush-hush and with minimal upside. Rick was somewhat more public, but nothing like this.

Either Bird has figured out something about how to properly motivate Ron that nobody else has, or this could get ugly. Hopefully the former - because it seems to me that Bird is also saying to Ron, "you're not getting any special treatment, I'm going to treat you like I'd treat every other 'second-best player on the team.' Meet my expectations for leadership and team play, or else."

Ragnar
10-06-2004, 01:21 PM
You know it all comes down to will Jermain and Jamaal be healthy come playoff time. If they would have been last year I strongly believe we would have won a title. Injuries are part of the game. I just hope that this year those two guys are healthy. Frankly it could have been just about any other two players and we still would have won. But those two IMO are the linchpins of the team without them we are nothing. (no offence to Ron)

SoupIsGood
10-06-2004, 11:03 PM
Improved... but still not better than Detroit if McDdyess (I can't spell it) is healthy.

RA231
10-06-2004, 11:18 PM
We'll see who is the better team as soon as the season starts. GO PACERS!!!!!

Ultimate Frisbee
10-07-2004, 12:08 AM
Wow, that picture makes JO's arms look huge!