According to the San Jose Mercury News' Diamond Leung, O'Neal is pondering retirement as the 2013-14 regular season nears a conclusion:
This could be it. So this is my last chance to try to win a championship. That's how I view it right now, whether it is or not.
It affects all the way to how you view your pregame meal to your nap to your bus ride to the arena. Those things are a little more intense than they would normally be.
O'Neal also explained that he'd love to go out in style with a Larry O'Brien Trophy to his name, noting that his only other golden opportunity to capture a title came back with the Indiana Pacers during the 2004-05 campaign. However, those hopes were ultimately dashed by the infamous Malice at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
He told Leung, "That's one of those situations where it's always going to linger with me, always going to linger with me, 'What if?' What if that doesn't happen? Where would we be?"
Considering the laundry list of injuries that O'Neal has dealt with the past five seasons, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the 35-year-old has retirement on his mind.
Dating back to 2010-11, O'Neal has played in 131 of a possible 291 games (including Tuesday night's contest against the Pacers), but he's found his groove as the defensive anchor in the middle of the Warriors' second unit of late.
After missing the entire month of January due to a wrist surgery, O'Neal impressed during nine appearances and seven starts in February, averaging 10.2 points and 7.2 rebounds over that stretch. In addition, O'Neal's true shooting percentage and offensive rating both spiked last month to marks of 60.5 and 117, respectively. On the season, the Warriors are 5-1 when O'Neal scores in double figures.
And believe it or not, O'Neal is only one of seven players to score at least 23 points, pull down 13 rebounds and shoot better than 76 percent from the field in a single game this season, according to Basketball-Reference. In doing so, O'Neal became the oldest Golden State player to record 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game since Terry Cummings on Feb. 7, 1999.
Given that the Warriors occupy the sixth seed in a stacked Western Conference, a championship may be a bit of a stretch for Golden State this season.
That said, it's been a pleasant surprise to watch O'Neal and his renewed confidence at work, and it would be a thrill to see him make a triumphant return to the playoffs after a two-year absence from the postseason.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.
Alec Nathan is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Alec_Nathan19.
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