When the Golden State Warriors signed free agent Jermaine O’Neal during the offseason, they knew they were getting an experienced but injury-prone and old center.
Their worst fears could be realized soon.
O’Neal will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist, the team announced. A timetable for his return will be determined after the surgery is complete.
O’Neal has been playing with a sprained right wrist for the past four weeks, but the pain has become unbearable. “I’ve never been stabbed, but it feels like a deep stab,” he told Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News. He also feared that undergoing surgery would end his career.
The 35-year-old veteran is averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for the Warriors this season, backing up Andrew Bogut. He has contributed not only on the court, but also as a veteran presence in the locker room, providing help to the younger guys.
If O’Neal were to miss an extended amount of time, it would surely be unfortunate for the veteran, who is still bidding for his first championship.
In a postgame interview a few weeks ago, O’Neal had this to say about what he hoped this year would entail for him and the Warriors:
Here I am in my 18th year, still trying to win that championship. I hope that we can learn, continue to build and get better, and the crazy fans at Oracle continue to give us that love that show us each an every night. I think this is going to be a special year for us.
The loss of O’Neal makes the Warriors already-shortened bench even shorter. With Festus Ezeli still out after having offseason knee surgery, the Warriors’ lack of reliable big men on the bench is downright frightening. Marreese Speights, who has struggled this season, will likely see more minutes, and the recently-signed Hilton Armstrong will have to play a productive role.