Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that unrestricted free agent center Jermaine O'Neal says that he is "very open" to signing with the Portland Trail Blazers. O'Neal, 34, was drafted by the Blazers in 1996 and traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2000.
"I'm very open to Portland. They're definitely a team I'm looking forward to having talks with this summer," O'Neal, an unrestricted free agent come July 1, told CSNNW.com. "LaMarcus [Aldridge] and Damian [Lillard] along with [Nicolas] Batum are some great pieces to build around. All they need to do is shore up the bench and add a paint presence on defense and they'll be right there. It's hard to put that type of stress on your starting five and I know I can help ease some of that stress."
Not only does O'Neal fit what the Trail Blazers need on the court, he also fits what they need off of it - a mentor to their young big man, Meyers Leonard.
"I like Meyers," he said. "He's an athletic talent that is going to get even better in this league. But I think I can help him become a better defender, rebounder, shot blocker. That's part of the job, veterans helping out the younger players. I did that here in Phoenix and that is something I would do in Portland if signed there."
"That is very humbling to hear," Leonard told CSNNW.com. "When we played against the Suns this year, he told me he thinks I have a lot of potential and that I just have to keep working hard. Growing up in Robinson [Illinois] he was my favorite player in his prime in Indianapolis."
O'Neal averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game for the Phoenix Suns this season. He holds career averages of 13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in a 17-year career with the Blazers, Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Suns.
Thanks to JP503 in the FanShots for getting there first.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter