|Heat starting over with a new O'Neal - Jermaine|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 17 February 2009 22:58|
Even as he was playing for the Toronto Raptors, O'Neal was recording Heat games to study, just in case those rumors that swirled for weeks were true and he would be heading to South Florida to play alongside Dwyane Wade.
And O'Neal liked what he saw.
``It's even better in person,'' he said.
Such was his assessment Tuesday after his first workout with the Heat, who last week traded Shawn Marion, Marcus Banks and cash for O'Neal, Jamario Moon and at least a first-round draft pick.
O'Neal will make his Miami debut Wednesday when the Heat host Minnesota. He may start; Moon will come off the bench for now.
``I'm very, very excited about the opportunity and the things I can present and bring to the team,'' O'Neal said.
He played against Miami in 21 regular-season games since March 22, 2002; the Heat were 3-18 in those meetings, in large part because O'Neal averaged 19.2 points and 11 rebounds against them.
now, the foe - he once scrapped with current Miami captain Udonis Haslem in a 2006 game - is already a friend. O'Neal said he forgot about that incident long ago, and Haslem said all is forgiven.
``In the heat of the battle, when you go out there and play and you represent your team, things can get pretty intense,'' Haslem said. ``I'm going to fight for my teammates every time and he's going to fight for his. Now that we're on the same team, we'll probably be fighting for each other.''
A former All-Star who's still only 30, the 6-foot-11 O'Neal has averaged 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in his career. The Heat studied him for about six weeks, and when the opportunity finally came to make a trade, team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison jumped.
They valued Marion, but were convinced the deal makes Miami stronger for a playoff push.
``Someone of Jermaine's skill set actually fits what we're trying to do well,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Jermaine O'Neal made no grand promises upon arriving in Miami, unlike the other guy with his surname.
His formal introduction brought no championship assurances, no vows of greatness, no traffic-snarling street party for a few thousand of his newest fans.
In other words, it wasn't a reprise of Shaquille O'Neal's arrival.
But make no mistake: Miami's newest O'Neal still sees plenty of potential.
do something special,'' he added.
There have only been two players in NBA history with O'Neal on the back of their jerseys.
They sort of got traded for each other.
Shaquille O'Neal's era in Miami ended a little over a year ago when he got sent to Phoenix for Marion and Banks - who, of course, then were moved to Toronto for O'Neal and Moon.
And what a difference a year makes: When the Shaq trade was made, Miami was at rock bottom, the worst team in the NBA.
By bringing in the player known as J.O., the Heat are shooting at home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
``Everybody in here, in the locker room, is open to these guys coming in,'' said Wade, the NBA's No. 2 scorer at the All-Star break. ``You can see the conscious effort of guys wanting to make it work. So the first day was good, and the only thing we can do is continue to move forward.''
The pieces will have to start fitting soon.
Of Miami's final 30 games, 17 are against likely postseason teams, and there's no time for a slide if the Heat want that coveted No. 4 seed for the first round.
``It gives you added motivation to come in and play even harder,'' said O'Neal, adding that his oft-problematic knees are fine and that he's ``absolutely'' ready for the stretch run in Miami, a city that he's enjoyed for years and owned a home in until about two years ago.
t sounded relieved that the trade - the worst kept secret in the NBA, Riley acknowledged - finally happened.
``This is our team,'' Wade said.