Though openly lusting after another team’s player would result in Donnie Walsh or Larry Bird being hit with a tampering charge, no such penalties are forthcoming (I think) for the Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal, openly fantasizing about the bounty Indiana might receive in exchange for Ron Artest.
“I think the two guys who can really come in and help us right away are Bonzi Wells and Al Harrington,” says O’Neal.
Harrington (above) is an obvious choice. He spent his initial six years with Indiana before requesting a trade that sent him to Atlanta in July 2004 for Stephen Jackson. O’Neal thinks he would be ready to come back. “I’ve talked to Al,” says O’Neal. “He’s probably the closest friend in the league that I have. He’s almost like a brother to me. We talk all the time.
“As a player you don’t want to talk too much about it. We understand that he’s a very loyal guy, that he’s a Hawk right now and his state of mind is to improve the Hawks. But he does understand that if a trade does come up and he does have to come back, that it would be a good situation for him. It’s more a fairy tale until it actually happens.”
“He’s familiar with the program, he knows what we like to do,” says O’Neal. “I told Larry and Donnie I really would like to get Al because he is a 6-foot-9 ‘four’ (power forward), who’s very strong, very quick, plays multiple positions. He’s almost a version of Ron: not as good individually defensively, but offensively, he can put up bigger numbers immediately. He’s shown that. It would be a very adjustable situation, and a situation he could pick up quickly on.”
O’Neal believes that Wells could also adjust quickly. “He can play the three, has a big body, fits into what we’re doing, thinks defense, can score on anybody offensively,” says O’Neal. “It’s really those two guys.”