View Full Version : Excellent Q&A with J.O from today, really need to read this

12-24-2004, 04:52 PM

In-Depth Q&A
with Jermaine O’Neal

By Conrad Brunner | Dec. 24, 2004
On the day after learning he would indeed be able to return to the Pacers for their Christmas Day game with Detroit, Jermaine O'Neal met with the media for his first extensive question-and-answer session since he his suspension was imposed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. O'Neal's suspension was appealed by the National Basketball Players Association and reduced from 25 to 15 games by arbitrator Roger Kaplan. Federal Judge George B. Daniels upheld the arbitrator's decision on Thursday, clearing the way for O'Neal's return. There will be another hearing on Dec. 30 to determine if the judge's decision will be binding or temporary.

Q. What do you expect from yourself in your first game back?

A. Just being around the team and practicing with those guys and working out, I tried to put myself in the position where if I was going to get the ruling I was going to get, I was at least going to be in pretty good shape to play and help my team win.

Q. Do you think you'll be sharp?

A. I haven't really gotten any reps with the first team until today. But we're going to go back to some of the plays we were running before all this happened. I'm pretty sure guys have a good idea of what they need to do and I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do. I don't think it should be like a preseason game. You're talking about a team that's been playing together and is just putting one more player on the court.

Q. How do you feel, mentally?

A. I'm just happy. I'm not mad by any means. It's a situation that's in the past now and really I want to put it behind me and play basketball. There are some many good things going on in this league and so many good people in the state of Indiana and the state of Michigan. It's just a situation that happened and everybody wants to give their opinion on who we are as people in both states and as a league. First and foremost, I want to apologize to my peers in the NBA because this is a great league and for something like this to happen, people kind of step back and say, 'OK, the NBA is too hip-hop.' Come on, now. There's a lot of good things that go on in this league, a lot of good people in this league. My apologies are for my entire family, the NBA and also the two states. Like I said, these are great states. People feel the way they feel about their pro sports, and one bad situation shouldn't alter how people think about three parties – and that's the NBA, the state of Indiana and the state of Michigan.

Q. What kind of emotions do you anticipate when you step on the court?

A. I don't know. I haven't played in so long, I've got to wait and see. I want to thank judge Daniels, Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Kessler and the union and my agent Arn Tellem for giving me the opportunity to play. I know there's still a process to be dealt with but as of right now, I'm back playing basketball. That's what I missed and that's what I love to do.

Q. What kind of environment do you expect in Conseco Fieldhouse?

A. It's a Christmas game so it's going to be a packed house and people are going to be excited. I'm pretty sure our fans are going to be extremely loud and be extremely supportive just because of what's going on in the game, not what has happened in the past. The past is the past and I'm pretty sure everybody wants to put that behind them and move on.

Q. Will you have to guard against trying to do too much, too soon?

A. I haven't really been worrying about it. I've just been thinking about how to bottle the excitement, not going out and trying to do too much. I'm going to play within the offense and when given the opportunity to score and make things happen, I'm going to do it. Obviously, I'm going to be excited. There's no real way to explain it. If I'm not excited, something's wrong with me. I haven't played in 15 games and I'm going to be out there playing in front of one of the best crowds in the NBA. So I'm going to go to bed a little early tonight.

Q. What baggage carries over from Nov. 19?

A. It is over. It is absolutely over. Just like any incident in any other pro sports, when you guys let it go, let it go. If you guys want to report on something, report on all the guys that get out and do things for their communities. That's what means the most. Obviously, it was a bad situation, but everybody that was involved in that situation is regretful that it happened. It's something nobody ever wants to be a part of or be involved in. This is a great league and I don't want anybody to think differently of the NBA. The NBA has a lot of great things, a lot of great stories, a lot of great people. So let's shed (light) on that. I know you guys need something to report about and write about but, just like in any other sport, when it's time to back away, people back away. And it's time to back away from it.

Q. How did you feel about the punishment?

A. The only real problem that I had was dealing with the penalty of it. Everybody deserves to be punishment. You've got to accept the punishment when you're involved in it, right or wrong. You've got to accept it. But I didn't think it warranted a season (for Ron Artest), I didn't think it warranted 30 games (for Stephen Jackson) and I didn't think it warranted 25 games (for O'Neal). That's a lot of games for a situation that was collectively just out of control. I regret that it happened. I'm pretty sure everyone that was involved regrets that it happened. We would love to move on and just play basketball now.

Q. How concerned are you about the pending hearing on Dec. 30?

A. I'm going to let the legal system do what they have to do and I'm just going to play basketball. I am extremely, extremely thankful for what Judge Daniels did for me yesterday, for what Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Kessler and his partners from the union did for me, and Billy Hunter. It's been a collective effort. I'm not a person that's going out and wanting problems. I'm a person that wants the best for everybody. And I just want to play basketball.

Q. Are you surprised the suspensions of Artest and Jackson weren't also reduced?

A. I was a little surprised. There's a lot of mixed emotions. Personally, I have to be happy for my situation but collectively, as a leader of this team, you know the feeling. I know personally the feeling that they're going through not playing basketball and that's a feeling nobody should have to go through. Obviously, they know they had to be penalized for it just like everybody that was involved, but for somebody's season to be taken away … I don't know.

Q. Did you feel helpless going through the appeals process?

A. I think the whole process was part of the discipline. I welcome the discipline part with open arms because I was a part of it. As a man, you have to be able to step back and say, 'I was a part of it so right or wrong I've got to take the punishment.' Just the length of the process was more strenuous on me mentally than the actual suspension. And watching my team struggle was probably the hardest thing to deal with outside of being home every day and not being able to come to the arena. It's still a process and hopefully with God's blessings it continues to stick, come Dec. 30.

Q. How will the Nov. 19 incident affect the Pacers-Pistons rivalry?

A. Obviously Ron and Ben (Wallace) have their opinions about each other. But everybody keeps it professional. Everybody understands that. When you guys talk about being a rival, it's good to talk about. And we understand that we are the two top teams, with Miami. We're right there. Even though both teams have been going through a lot, we understand how important this game is because when you look down at the end of the year, most teams look at the win-loss column between the two.

You want to be the team that has more wins and losses against your opponent because we might see them at some point during the playoffs. So we want to make sure that we send a message to those guys that we're the better team and I'm pretty sure they're thinking the same thing. It's extremely important for both teams to come out and play a nice, hard game. But it stays on the court. Nobody has any bitter feelings between each other personally. Professionally, we feel like we're a better team, even with the people we have now.

Q. What did it feel like watching the Pacers play without you?

A. It's hard to explain because when we were winning, it was the best worst time of my life. And then when we began to lose it was just the worst time of my life because we were no longer winning and I was not there to make a difference. As the leader of this team, when you've been there for so long, you only know one way. I've been in unfamiliar territory by just watching. Now I'm back and hopefully the legal process continues to go my way and the union's way and I continue to stay on the court.

Q. What can the team achieve this season without Artest?

A. A championship. I don't want anyone to think any differently. Obviously, Ron is a tremendous part of what we do but our team has proven that since we've been out that guys can step up in a major way. We need everybody to step up. I've got to step up my game. Jack needs to step up his game when he gets back, the coaches have got to step up their game. But we still feel like we've got a shot. Everybody's saying our season is over but how can you say that when we haven't even played 30 games yet? We're going to be focused and we're going to play hard every single night. The only piece we've been missing is a guy to throw the ball to in the low post and command double-teams, and I'm that guy.

Q. What does it mean to come back against the Pistons?

A. A lot of people are looking at it as I'm coming back against Detroit, and the history of what happened the last time we played and the possibility I might go back on suspension once the game's over. Personally, if it was the Cleveland Cavaliers, I think it would be the same intensity. It's nationally televised. There's only two NBA games. Both teams are going to be aggressive. And more than anything, we want to get back to winning games. We've been through a tough period of time with injuries and suspensions. We want to be considered a top team again and it's going to take a lot of hard work for us to do it.

Q. With your return, how quickly do you think the Pacers can return to the level of an elite contender in the East?

A. I think the team has been playing the way they needed to play. They just need a guy that can come in and give them initial help both on defense and offense, a guy that can block some shots and stop penetration, a guy that can help guys like Reggie Miller, Jamaal Tinsley and Fred Jones get free on perimeter. It's just me being able to fit in and make their jobs easier. It's not like the team has to re-figure the way they've been doing things. I've got to make sure I fit in with what they're doing.

Q. Were you at all surprised at the productivity of guys like Jamaal Tinsley, James Jones and Fred Jones in your absence?

A. I've seen it every day in practice. I knew they had the ability, if given the opportunity, to really step up their game in a major, major role. It was impressive, the way they did it, but I knew they could do it.

Q. How do you feel about Artest's situation?

A. We've talked a lot and Ron is part of this team. That entire situation is just a reaction from a reaction. That's the best way I can describe that situation. I know he feels terribly bad that it even happened. I'm pretty sure the fans involved feel badly that it happened. But it is history. It's something that is in the books and hopefully we can focus on some of the better things that are happening in this league.


12-24-2004, 07:27 PM
Man, Jermaine has come a long way. A long way.

When I kept saying he'd grow up and be a leader, I had no idea he'd be like this.

12-24-2004, 09:40 PM
he is very, very impressive

12-24-2004, 11:00 PM

12-25-2004, 07:28 AM
Since joining the Pacers, JO has consistently said the right things and usually done them. His comments here do not surprise me at all; I expect quality from him.

I am glad to read he and Ron Artest have talked things through.