Will Summer Games Wear Out O'Neal?

by Conrad Brunner

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com

Conrad Brunner

Q. I heard that Jermaine O'Neal will be playing for the Olympic Team. While I think this is a great opportunity for him to show the international community that he can play, might the effects of these years of basketball without a summer off hurt him physically? He has hardly stopped, what with the Worlds, the Goodwill Games and everything. Can his body take the beating? (From Matt in Indianapolis)

A. That's a huge question, and may be one of the reasons he has yet to formally accept the invitation to compete with the U.S. team that will attempt to qualify for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The sixth-place finish in the 2002 World Basketball Championship in Indianapolis meant the U.S. lost its free pass to the Olympics, and must try to earn one of the top three spots in the Tournament of the Americas qualifying event this coming summer in Puerto Rico. Assuming the best, this means two more summers of international competition, bringing the total to four in a row for Jermaine, starting with the 2001 Goodwill Games. He would be the only player in that position, as none of the other members of the 2002 WBC team have been invited to join the new U.S. roster.

Though Jermaine has only missed five games due to injuries this season, he has battled ankle and knee pain much of the year. Considering that, as well as the mental strain of dealing with his stepfather's self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, he could hardly be blamed for wanting to take a summer off. Even so, look for him to accept the invitation because membership on the Olympic team registers a player's icon status in American basketball.