Lakers Rumors: Los Angeles Should Stay Away from Jermaine O'Neal

Andrew WallockContributor IJuly 17, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 04:  Jermaine O'Neal #7 of the Boston Celtics is helped up by Rajon Rondo #9 after O'Neal was pushed out of bounds by Mehmet Okur #13 of the New Jersey Nets on January 4, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers have had a surprising offseason, to say the least. With the sign and trade for superstar Steve Nash and the potential signing of Antawn Jamison, they appear to be a lot more set to contend than they were this past year. Rumors also indicate that the team has interest in signing veteran center Jermaine O’Neal to a contract.

If the Lakers are smart, this is a contract and a player that they really need to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong, I always liked Jermaine O’Neal. With the Indiana Pacers, he had a number of All-Star years defensively and offensively. But ever since the infamous Malice in the Palace, we haven’t seen the same O’Neal.

Most recently with the Boston Celtics, he was cut during the season due to a bad wrist injury and just being plain old. That’s not even a crack at the once great O’Neal. The guy is just at that point in his career; it happens to the best basketball players. It’s time for him to hang up the sneakers.

The Lakers do have a very weak bench, especially behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. It seems that a signing of O’Neal would bolster their frontcourt. If they don’t bring back Jordan Hill, they will remain with only Josh McRoberts, rookie Robert Sacre (if he makes the team) and Antawn Jamison.

But come on, let’s be realistic. There are plenty of other free agent options out there that are just much more viable options. The Lakers aren't even sure what version of O’Neal they’ll get. Will they get a suddenly young and tough version? Or will they get the out-of-shape, consistently injured version? Should they really risk it?

I would even urge them to take Carl Landry, Louis Amundson or Anthony Randolph. Heck, even notorious bust Darko Milicic would be a better backcourt option.

Take a look at Jermaine's past two seasons:

2011: Played 24 games, averaged 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds

2012: Played 25 games, averaged 5.0 points and 3.9 rebounds

Not eye-popping numbers. 

While it's hoped that Jermaine's visit to Dr. Peter Wehling will help the veteran center, it's just a risk the re-energized Lakers shouldn't be willing to take. He may come into camp healthy, but how long will that last? 

The pluses to this deal? It would be assumed that O'Neal would sign for very little money and wouldn't be as worried about playing time behind center Andrew Bynum. The Lakers do seem to be targeting solid, proven veterans who can come in an contribute in limited roles. Hence the pending Antawn Jamison deal. 

But the Lakers should look away from the oft-injured Jermaine O'Neal.