Letís put something to rest, because itís starting to get a little out of hand. This theory the Pacers are a better team without Jermaine O'Neal is based on some seriously flawed logic.
Some would point to the 5-1 record in games heís missed this season as evidence the new system works better in his absence, and claim the 4-8 record when heís played only reinforces that fact.
You are what you are and records donít lie, but this is an example of adding two and two and getting 22.
The fact of the matter is the Pacers havenít really had OíNeal all season long. When heís been on the floor he hasnít been anything close to 100 percent. And J.O. at 50 percent is, well, Mark Blount. The point being, any judgment on OíNealís ability to fit with, and contribute to, the team as constituted under Jim OíBrien, must be withheld until the real J.O. finally stands up.
Given his performance against the Clippers Sunday, when he reported no knee pain for the first time this season and was battling the after-effects of a shoulder stinger from Fridayís game in Seattle, it appears heís getting to his feet. OíNeal scored 20 points with 15 rebounds and the Pacers outscored the Clippers by 23 points when he was on the floor.
So give it some time. That the Pacers have managed to go 9-9 while adapting to a 180-degree change in offensive philosophy and getting relatively limited contributions from their franchise big man is a good thing. Itís safe to assume that, as OíNeal regains his form, the Pacers will only get better. If not, then weíll talk.
But if insist on obsessing about the won-lost record with and without him, consider this: since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, the Cavaliers are 6-3 without LeBron James. Somehow, I doubt this debate is raging in Cleveland.