Jermaine O’Neal treating this season like it’s his last

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Jermaine O’Neal has spent three careers in the NBA.

He entered the league as its youngest player – undercutting Kobe Bryant by a few months – and spent four seasons in Portland buried on the bench.

Then, he went to Indiana and made six straight All-Star games, even finishing third in 2004 MVP voting.

Afterward, he floated to Toronto, Miami, Boston, Phoenix and Golden State, making modest contributions in each stop.

Raw youngster, star and journeyman.

He’s really settled into that last role with the Warriors this season, averaging 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 20.8 minutes per game. Of course, a pleasant regular season isn’t what O’Neal is after at this stage of his career.

Eighteen-year pros, O’Neal and Steve Nash are the only active players in the NBA that long without a championship. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have already gotten their titles.

O’Neal knows time could be running out. O’Neal, via Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:

“This could be it,” said O’Neal, 35. “So this is my last chance to try to win a championship. That’s how I view it right now, whether it is or not.

“It affects all the way to how you view your pregame meal to your nap to your bus ride to the arena. Those things are a little more intense than they would normally be.”

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It’s difficult to read that quote and not think about a passport issue keeping O’Neal from travelling with the Warriors to play the Raptors, but for what it’s worth, he firmly denies losing it:

O’Neal is not perfect – he also discusses The Palace brawl in Leung’s article – but he’s had an incredible career. Whether or not he wins a championship, that won’t change.

But the passion he’s put into his quest for a title is precisely why his career has unfolded this way.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.

Pelicans’ Dante Cunningham jumps on scorer’s table, Anthony Davis jumps on him (video)

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The Pelicans are effectively out of the playoff race, but Dante Cunningham and Anthony Davis are still competing — even if it looks a little silly.

That tone and a big game from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) led to a 121-118 win over the Mavericks.

Goran Dragic puts alley-oop pass through rim (video)

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Goran Dragic is very good at alley-oops.

Too good.

With a “shot” like that falling, the Heat trounced the Knicks, 105-88.

Hawks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. kneed in the groin while defending 76ers (video)

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Since trading for him, the Hawks have gotten Tim Hardaway Jr. to buy in defensively.

After this help defense on 76ers center Richaun Holmes cost him dearly, I wouldn’t blame Hardaway if he gave up on the endeavor entirely.