My four stages of following Jermaine O’Neal last season went something like this:
1) hopeful that he would provide a huge presence in the middle
2) ready to give up on him (and to throw a television set out the window)
3) completely content, or maybe thrilled is a better word, that O’Neal gave the Celtics anything — anything at all — during the playoffs
4) “he played like that in the playoffs EVEN WITH A BROKEN WRIST? LONG LIVE JERMAINE O’NEAL!!!”
But still, even when O’Neal won my heart, his body was busy failing him. The wrist broke. His knees couldn’t give him much lift. He persevered and made no excuses, but O’Neal’s body was held together by silly putty and as fragile as a piece of glass.
In an attempt to work that body back into top form, O’Neal has reportedly committed to join the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series.
The Training Series will feature a competitive league with as many as eight teams, but the league is not the only draw for NBA players. Participants will also train and lift weights at Impact Basketball, a training facility directed by Joe Abunassar, who has become something of a training legend among NBA circles.
“This is an effort on our part to get these guys as ready for training camp as they can get, without going to training camp,” Abunassar said in a phone interview with the New York Times. “That’s the allure of it.”
The league, of course, is more interesting than drills and bench press reps. It will feature more than 40 players and as many as eight teams, including Chauncey Billups, John Wall and Zach Randolph.
The games will be open to the general public (about 500 tickets will be sold per day, with proceeds being donated to charity) and streamed online. The goal is for the games to be played with more intensity than average summer league games.
“The way we’re going to play — with all the N.B.A. guys, with a lot of intensity, with not making it a circus, so to speak,” Abunassar said. “These guys are here to get the best basketball they’ve gotten.”
And Jermaine O’Neal, presumably, is there to whip his body back into shape. As of now, he’s Boston’s only center.