Draymond Green was six years old when Jermaine O’Neal laced up a pair of sneakers before his first NBA game.
Seventeen years later, O’Neal and Green were the keys for the Warriors win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
For O’Neal, this is his 18th year in the league. He was drafted 17th overall in the 1996 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He was a McDonald’s All American in 1996 and the most improved player in the NBA in 2001-2002. That same year, O’Neal, then with the Pacers, began has reign as one of the best centers in the league, and from 2001 to 2007, he showed his dominance to every center he went up against.
You might as well call him Jermaine Old’Neal.
Most nights, Jermaine Old’Neal appears to be old, but Saturday night he must had drank some of Michael Jordan’s secret stuff before his best game as a Warrior. Not surprisingly Old’Neal’s 23 points were a season-high, and just to put into perspective how little scoring production he has brought to the Bay Area this year, those 23 points are just about 15 percent of his total points scored all season long.
His 13 rebounds make it just the fourth time in four years he has grabbed 13 boards. The previous three times were all with the Suns last year. To put into perspective just how rare of an occurrence Old’Neal’s rebounding total from last night was, keep in mind that Jermaine Old’Neal has not grabbed more than 13 rebounds in a game since February 6th of 2010 in the Miami Heat’s four point loss to the Chicago Bulls.
The old center has only played in 23 games with the Warriors this season, but the Warriors have a winning record when he players and are 5-1 when Old’Neal starts for the now injured Andrew Bogut. Old’Neal’s contributions go beyond the box score; with Festus Ezeli still out and Ognjen Kuzmic failing to make any contributions, Old’Neal is the best backup bigman the Warriors have, and his presence is needed.
Draymond Green, the second year man from Michigan State, has proven to be a useful part of the Warriors puzzle during his young career with the Warriors, but Saturday night Green had his best statistical game of the season. He compiled a double-double: 18 points and 10 rebounds in a season high 37 minutes. Much like Old’Neal, Green’s contributions to the Warriors go beyond the box score. He normally defends the other team’s best player for stretches of a game. he can guard both shooting guards and power forwards. He sets screens and gathers offensive rebounds. He always dives for loose balls.
For both players, their importance cannot usually be quantified by numbers but for Saturday night’s win against the Nets, the numbers really do tell the story.