Jermaine O'Neal wants trade, sees Lakers as best fit
Posted: Monday August 6, 2007 9:04AM; Updated: Monday August 6, 2007 7:30PM
LOS ANGELES -- If Jermaine O'Neal gets his wish, he will not be playing for the Indiana Pacers next season. If he gets his dream, he will be suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant.
While here Sunday for a charity basketball game hosted by Baron Davis and Paul Pierce, O'Neal said he doesn't want to be a part of a Pacers youth movement and that it would be in his and the team's best interest to part ways.
"I would welcome a trade to the Lakers," said O'Neal, who averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots last season. "Indiana has given me the opportunity to establish myself as a really good player in this league, but they're into rebuilding and going really young, and I'm just not in a position physically to go through another five to six years with a lot of losses and a lot of down time."
The Lakers have tried to acquire O'Neal, 28, several times this offseason, but talks have reportedly stalled over Indiana's insistence that the Lakers' package include both Lamar Odom and 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum. The Lakers' refusal to part with Bynum, the 10th pick in the 2005 draft, cost them a chance at Jason Kidd during last year's trading deadline. The failed trade was the basis of Bryant's infamous videotaped tirade in a shopping center parking lot in which he said the Lakers should have dealt Bynum for Kidd.
"I was ready but you never know in this business," said Kidd, who was also in Los Angeles for the charity game. "Playing with Kobe makes the game easy. He's the most dominant offensive player and he's a competitor, and I love playing with guys who love to compete."
If the Lakers once again fail to deal Bynum for a proven All-Star, Kidd could be the benefactor: O'Neal said he would also welcome a move to the Nets.
"Los Angeles and New Jersey would be my top two teams," O'Neal said. "I think L.A.'s a real possibility and I think New Jersey's a possibility too."
The idea of O'Neal coming to New Jersey quickly put a smile on Kidd's face.
"I think that would be a great addition for us if we had an opportunity to get a guy like Jermaine," Kidd said. "He comes every night to play and he's a great person and a great basketball player. It would be a huge move."
If O'Neal had to choose one destination, however, it would be Los Angeles. He recently sold his home in Westwood after getting an unexpectedly good deal but said that he and his wife were already searching for a new house in Los Angeles and would love to make it a permanent residence.
"I love L.A.," O'Neal said. "I normally train here every summer. The last two summers I haven't trained here because I got hurt, but I love it here. My daughter loves it. My wife loves it. This is one of the prime places that if I were to be traded, I would allow Indiana to trade me here."
The main reason O'Neal would welcome a trade to Los Angeles has little to do with the sunshine and shopping that his wife and daughter enjoy and more to do with playing alongside Bryant, whom he entered the league with in 1996 as the only two high school players selected in that draft.
"We've spoken a couple times this offseason," O'Neal said. "Me and Kobe have been on each other since we were 15, playing AAU basketball, adidas All-American Camp, Nike All-American Camp. It's been a long relationship that we've had. We talked about maybe playing together. ... We just want to make sure that our thought processes are similar and now we're going to let the business handle itself. I mean, we could talk for years, but if [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak and [Pacers president] Larry Bird don't decide to make the deal, then it's all talk."