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News » Slimmer O'Neal expecting big things from Raptors

Slimmer O'Neal expecting big things from Raptors

Slimmer O'Neal expecting big things from Raptors
TORONTO (AP) - Jermaine O'Neal sweated through endless hours of workouts this summer, but those sessions were a breeze compared to breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Told to drop a few pounds to take some weight off his surgically repaired left knee, O'Neal cut sugar, bread and dairy products out of his diet for eight weeks. The Toronto Raptors center called it "the biggest challenge" of his offseason.

"They felt that it would be important for me, because I was really top-heavy the last two years, to trim down and take some of the pressure off my knees," O'Neal said Monday at Raptors media day. "They told me 10-12 pounds would be the ideal weight for my knee to stay healthy, to be able to actually elevate and get my explosion back. I did that, and I feel exactly what they were talking about."

Still, the steady diet of broccoli, carrots and green beans grew a little tiresome, leaving O'Neal longing for his favorite treats.

"When you wake up in the morning, you don't want to eat oatmeal with no sugar everyday," O'Neal said. "You want the French toast, you want the pancakes, you want that stuff. I struggled through that but I got through it."

O'Neal, acquired from Indiana in a July trade that sent point guard T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic and draft pick Roy Hibbert to the Pacers, missed 40 games last season because of lingering pain from a torn ligament in his left knee that was surgically repaired the previous summer.

The dietary regimen and the hours in the gym were part of O'Neal's desire to pay back Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo for providing him with a fresh start.

"Bryan really stuck his neck out for me," O'Neal said. "I'm willing to do what I need to do to make him look good about the trade."

Colangelo said O'Neal's rebounding ability "changes the entire dynamic of what we've got," making this the best squad he's had since joining the Raptors in February, 2006 "In terms of core talent, yes, I'd have to think that this is the best," Colangelo said. "At every position, we've got the talent that we feel we can compete."

Having reached his target weight, the slimmed-down O'Neal allowed himself a reward.

"I had two cupcakes," he said. "Very good. Two Red Devil cupcakes. I enjoyed it."

His sweet tooth satisfied and his body in shape, O'Neal will open his first training camp with the Raptors on Tuesday. At the top of the agenda is figuring out how best to team up with U.S. Olympian Chris Bosh in the Toronto frontcourt.

"I think we're all excited, just in the potential that he brings to this team," Bosh said of O'Neal, a six-time All-Star. "If we get on the same page, I think we can do a lot of big things."

Bosh has only played against O'Neal during informal scrimmages this week, but that will change when training camp begins in Ottawa on Tuesday.

"I'm excited to learn about him, I'm excited to see his mannerisms, his characteristics, where he likes the ball, what moves he likes to do," said Bosh.

"Once you get a knack for it, it will be effortless."

While he has yet to see his two big men playing together, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell has made up his mind about how his offense will work.

"The thing I'm telling our guys is, your first look is going to be inside, your second look is going to be inside and, if they throw it back out, your third look is going to be inside," Mitchell said.

"Then, if they throw it out, then you shoot the basketball."

Also Monday, the Raptors announced that rookie F Nathan Jawai will be held out of practice because of concerns uncovered during a routine cardiac screening. The first indigenous player from Australia to be drafted by an NBA team, Jawai was the 41st overall pick in the June, 2008 draft.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 30, 2008


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