Golden State Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal knows that this will probably be his last season in the NBA, so he’s doing everything that he can to spend every possible minute on the court.
Unfortunately, a torn ligament on his right wrist that required surgery has forced O’Neal to miss the last six weeks of action. Originally, reports indicated that he would miss an extended amount of time, possibly even the entire season.
However, O’Neal proved his doubters wrong. On Wednesday, the 18-year veteran participated in “full-contact” practice for the first time since the surgery. He wouldn’t give a time frame for his return, but general manager Bob Myers said last week that O’Neal may recover in two or three weeks.
O’Neal was candid about the challenges he faces in recovering from such a injury.
“The most difficult part being a big guy is that you have to push off a lot, and that was the big thing that I noticed today, that I wasn’t necessarily ready for,” O’Neal told Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group. “But I’d still give myself a passing grade and be able to take some contact from it. The biggest issue is it’s the dominant hand, the right hand that I shoot with, and I had a couple pretty good moves but wasn’t able to translate that into a basket. It’s the first day, though, I feel very positive about it, and I look forward to practice (Thursday).”
The 35-year-old O’Neal 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. With fellow center Festus Ezeli also recovering from surgery, O’Neal’s injury greatly hurt the Warriors’ depth, as they do not have a true backup center who they can count on to produce consistently.
Hopefully, for his sake, O’Neal can heal up quickly and get back onto the court. His team needs him, and he probably doesn’t want to spend his final NBA season wearing a suit on the bench.