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Just The Sports: Jermaine O'Neal

Just The Sports

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Jermaine O'Neal

Jermaine O'Neal has expressed on several occasions his desire to be traded out of Indiana and away from the Indiana Pacers, all to no avail, so there should be no surprise that O'Neal is now threatening that his knee injury may not allow him to play in another game this season. When labor does not feel its demands are being met by its employers, then its only recourse is to withhold services, which is exactly what O'Neal seems to be doing. However, O'Neal has overrated the value of his services to the Indiana Pacers if he thinks the franchise will immediately capitulate to his demands.

This is O'Neal's eighth season with the Pacers and the first four seasons with the team were relatively injury-free for O'Neal, but over the last four seasons (including 2007-08), he has only played in 197 out of 328 regular-season contests, or only 67% while being paid 100% of his money. The only reason the number is even that high is because O'Neal played 69 regular-season games in the 2006-07 season. In the other three seasons, O'Neal has missed at least a quarter of his team's regular-season games so while O'Neal has been injured or suspended, the Pacers have found out what life is like without O'Neal in the lineup and should not fear his absence from the roster in the future.

With Jermaine O'Neal on the active roster for forty-four games in 2004-05, the Pacers outscored their opponents by .5 points per 100 possessions (105.7 to 105.2). Without him in the other thirty-eight games, the Pacers outscored their opponents by 2.3 points per 100 possessions (107.5 to 105.2).

In the next season, it was another case of the Pacers not missing O'Neal by virtue of their not having any precipitous drop in their efficiency level, thanks in part to a trade that brought the ultra-efficient scorer Peja Stojakovic into the fold. In the fifty-one games in which O'Neal played, the Pacers outscored their opponents 1.9 points per 100 possessions (104.2 to 102.3) and without him in thirty-one games, the Pacers outscored their opponents by the same 1.9 points per 100 possessions (106.5 to 104.6).

Only last year, during the 2006-07 season, did the Pacers with O'Neal look significantly better than they did with him, but with his missing only thirteen regular-season games that year, there are not really two roughly equal sample sets to compare to each other. Even so, the Pacers were outscored by their opponents by 2.0 points per 100 possessions (103.8 to 105.8), and without him were outscored by an embarrassing 9.9 points per 100 possessions (100.0 to 109.9).

However, that season looks even more like a statistical outlier since during this season, the story has been the same as the tale told in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. In the thirty-three games O'Neal played in, the Pacers were outscored by 2.9 points per 100 possessions (103.5 to 106.4) and in the other fourteen games, the Pacers have been outscored by .9 points per 100 possessions (106.6 to 107.5). Neither number is impressive, but they do show the Pacers are not a worse team without Jermaine O'Neal.

No matter the roster changes or the coaching changes, the Pacers have never been handicapped by O'Neal's absence so if they choose to ignore his complaints as they have in the past, it will not do any damage to the product on the court. On the other hand, if they can trade him to a team that overrates his prowess on the court, the Pacers should try to do so without having to give up any of the more important players on the roster.



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