Is O'Neal Relied Upon Too Much?

by Conrad Brunner

March 31, 2003

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Conrad Brunner

Q. Lately it seems that the Pacers are not doing well as a team when Jermaine O'Neal is doing well individually. J.O. had 31 in the loss to Portland, 29 in the loss to Atlanta, and 12 in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia, which is when the breakdown occurred. Are the rest of the Pacers relying on O'Neal to do everything when he starts turning it on? Could the lack of involvement on the offensive end for the other Pacers lead to complacency on the defensive end as well? It's so disappointing to see Jermaine playing so well and becoming a fantastic player, but the individual success not netting any victories. (From Chris in Indianapolis)

A. You may be right. It does appear, when O'Neal gets on a roll, that everyone else tends to throw the ball to him and stand around, which brings the rest of the offense to a grinding halt. In essence, if he doesn't score, the team doesn't score when it goes into that mode. It's a bit of a Catch-22 because he is the No. 1 scoring option and when he's on the floor and the team needs an important basket, the ball will wind up in his hands. What his teammates need to understand is that the play doesn't end when he receives the ball, and they must continue to move, screen and cut to give him passing options if the opponent brings a double-team. It's interesting to note that in the team's last 21 games, he has averaged fewer points and field-goal attempts in victories (19.2 points, 15.2 shots) than in losses (21.7 points, 17.9 shots). It's hardly a character flaw for a player to try to do more when the team is in need. But all five players on the floor need to be involved for the team to be at its best.