Even though the Los Angeles Lakers made a great addition by swapping four draft picks for the services of one of the greatest picks of all time, they can't be content to stand pat as the rest of the teams in the NBA continue to make improvements.
Signing Jermaine O'Neal would essentially be standing pat—or at least not moving too far forward—because the former All-Star doesn't have much left in the tank and wouldn't make a large impact in a purple and gold uniform.
Despite that, the Lakers are still in pursuit of the big man, according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Lakers to work out free agent forward Jermaine O'Neal in Las Vegas on Tuesday, source tells Y! O'Neal has recovered from knee surgery in Feb— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 17, 2012
Although he might be in better playing shape after following in Kobe Bryant's footsteps and getting the infamous and secret German knee procedure, O'Neal is still coming off a season in which he averaged 5.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game with a PER of 9.46.
O'Neal has gone on the record as saying that accepting such a small role with the Boston Celtics was tough, but he'd likely be put in a similar situation with the Lakers. The following is transcribed by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
I had a fantastic time in Boston, with the city, the fans were phenomenal, the organization was phenomenal, I just don’t know if the playing situation was right to be quite honest. The hardest thing for me was to not be able to do some of the things I have been quite comfortable doing all my life. I accepted the challenge. I accepted the role. [I didn’t want] 10 shots a game, but it was hard to be told not to worry about [scoring].
When I was asked about [offense], I tried to be as professional about it as possible but it’s hard. You put any player in that position and ask them how that’s going to pan out for them; it’s hard mentally because you’re fighting against yourself every single day. And it’s not like you’re getting the reps, even in practice, because they’re going to stay away from that in practice because they don’t want you to start leaning towards that in games. It was really rough. The things that kept me going was the guys on that team, [team president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge, and just the passion of that city. No one wants it to end the way it ended, but it did. I was never really healthy mentally.
It took everything in my mind, body and soul to be professional about it. When that’s said to you in front of a team, it bothers you.
After playing for 22.8 minutes per game during his 25 appearances for the Boston Celtics, O'Neal might have to accept an even smaller role. The top big men off the bench for L.A. last season—in terms of minutes per game—were Troy Murphy (16.2 MPG), Josh McRoberts (14.4) and Jordan Hill (14.1).
If O'Neal wants more action, he's doing the wrong thing by leading on L.A. and allowing them to waste their time.
Finalizing the deal with Antawn Jamison and pursuing Jordan Hill in an effort to re-sign him would be much better option.
Although it's not a done deal yet, Sports Illustrated has reported that Jamison will sign with the team and boost the rebounding off the bench while providing a three-point presence to stretch the floor when he gets playing time.
Once the deal is indeed done, the Lakers must turn to Hill and not O'Neal.
Doing so remains a priority for the team, according to Lakers.com contributor Mike Trudell:
Buss is reiterating Mitch Kupchak's comments that the team would like to re-sign Jordan Hill.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 17, 2012
Hill does everything that O'Neal can do, just at a higher price and with much more potential. He appeared to be breaking out at a number of times last season and probably would if he was given consistent playing time.
Although it's weird to think about, the Lakers would be doing more of that dreaded "standing pat" thing if they signed O'Neal than if they re-signed Hill. While the former is clearly on the decline, the latter is on the rise.
O'Neal could prove everyone wrong, but not with the Lakers. The team is currently wasting its time trying to pursue him.