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Portland Tribune} What now for (Jermaine)O’Neal, Adelman?
It’s no secret the Trail Blazers need a cornerstone player — a Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett type — to make a firm step toward respectability in the near future.
The first name that comes to mind is Jermaine O’Neal, who just finished a discouraging season with Indiana.
O’Neal, who spent his first four seasons in Portland, is a five-time All-Star and a 10-year veteran, yet he doesn’t turn 28 until October. He is one of the premier big men in the game, a solid citizen — the NBA’s 2004 Magic Johnson Award winner — and a popular figure in the City of Roses.
He also is a costly commodity. After making $16.425 million this season, ninth-highest among NBA players, he is due $82.2 million over the next four years. Plus, there is concern about his health, coming off two injury-plagued seasons.
Portland could package Zach Randolph, its first pick in the upcoming draft and another player or two to make a trade work under salary-cap restrictions. But Pacer President Larry Bird says he has no intention of trading O’Neal, though he stops short of declaring he won’t.
And a source close to O’Neal says he has no interest in returning to the Blazers.
“I love being (in Indianapolis),” O’Neal tells The Indianapolis Star. “I’m not concerned (about a trade), because if they ever reach the point where they want to trade me, I’m 27 … longevity is everything, and I haven’t reached my peak yet. This trade talk came up since we struggled last season. People want to take shots at you when things aren’t going well. But that’s fine; my skin is thick.”
• The announcement out of Sacramento about Rick Adelman’s firing as coach said “all parties agreed it was best (for Adelman) to part ways and move on.”
Untrue, Adelman says.
“That’s not the way it went down,” the former Trail Blazer boss says. “I was willing to come back, or at least talk to (co-owners Gavin and Joe Maloof) about it. But it was decided before then.”
Adelman had allowed himself to think a second-half surge that got the Kings into the playoffs for their eighth straight season under his watch — and a competitive first-round loss against defending champion San Antonio — might save his job.
“I knew (dismissal) could happen,” Adelman says. “But the way we finished the season, I thought there was a good chance maybe things would work out.
“It’s their prerogative, but I don’t know what else we could have done to beat the Spurs. If that’s the reason I was let go, maybe it’s best I do leave.”
Some wonder if Geoff Petrie, the Sacramento president of basketball operations whose relationship with Adelman goes back to the first Blazer season when they were roommates, had undercut his old friend. Adelman says Petrie’s hands were tied.
“It came down to what (the Maloofs) wanted,” Adelman says.
Adelman, who turns 60 next month, isn’t sure what’s on the horizon. He and wife Mary Kay bought a house in Portland last year; they intend to retire there. Four of his six children — Kathy, Laura, David and Caitlin — live in Portland. Son R.J. was a scout for the Kings, and the youngest, Patrick, is a junior in high school in Sacramento.
“We might stay here, or we might move up to Portland after the school year,” says Adelman, who owns a career coaching record of 752-481 in the regular season and 70-68 in the playoffs and will get another NBA head-coaching opportunity at some point. “We’ll talk things through and make a decision in the next couple of weeks.”
• The Maloofs probably will look for a sexy hire, à la Phil Jackson. They could wind up with San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo, which would be fitting. Carlesimo followed Adelman as coach at both Portland and Golden State.
“Call the Maloofs and tell them that, will you?” Carlesimo jokes.
As of the weekend, neither Carlesimo nor Terry Porter had been contacted by the Kings about the coaching job. Both are interested.
“I would be, for sure,” Carlesimo says. “The owners want to win, Geoff knows what he’s doing, and it’s a good homecourt. There are a couple of potential issues there that are questionable, but as NBA head jobs go, it’s a good one.”
For the record, Porter says he is unsure of his interest in the Sacramento job. But come on. Anybody who thinks he would, or should, turn down that opportunity in deference to his role with the Portland group trying to position itself to buy the Blazers — long odds, indeed — is kidding himself.