O'Neal says parting ways with Pacers may be best

Updated: January 7, 2007, 2:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Another disgruntled NBA franchise player who wants to win now, not later, has popped up in Indiana.

Pacers veteran Jermaine O'Neal voiced his displeasure with the direction of the team Thursday following a loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Forward-Center
Indiana Pacers

Profile
2007 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
28 19.3 10.6 3.0 .461 .732

"We're a very average team right now," O'Neal told the Indianapolis Star. "We're going to be average until we decide as players that we want to win and do the right things we're supposed to do to win. If we don't do it, we're going to mingle around .500, get in the playoffs and then be out."

The constant Pacers inconsistency has O'Neal thinking about his future with the team. Although clearly frustrated, O'Neal, who is averaging a team-high 19.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, said his first choice is to remain with the team. But he did not rule out that a change may be necessary.

"If I can't take this team to another level, I truthfully believe we should go our separate ways at the end of the season," said O'Neal, according to the Indianapolis Star. "I'm saying in general, the bottom line is you play to win. If we don't have a system set to win a championship, if we don't have the crew to win a championship, then what are we doing?

"I'm getting to the point, I'm in my 11th year, I don't want to play 82 games and then exit to watch somebody else pop champagne. ... I'm tired of that."
-- Jermaine O'Neal

"I'm getting to the point, I'm in my 11th year, I don't want to play 82 games and then exit to watch somebody else pop champagne. ... I'm tired of that. I want to compete for a championship. If we can't do it, that's a whole [different] story."

O'Neal said he wouldn't discuss any details regarding if he had taken his frustration to CEO Donnie Walsh and team president Larry Bird, but Walsh said he understood O'Neal's feelings.

"I think he's played really well and if the time comes for [talking about O'Neal's future], then that will be the time. We'll see," said Walsh, according to the Indianapolis Star. "We're going through a difficult part of the season. I'm frustrated, the coaches are frustrated on occasion and the team is frustrated."