After the passing of the NBA trade deadline Thursday and a post-deadline meeting with team officials, Phoenix Suns center Jermaine O'Neal told ESPN that he is staying with the Suns as opposed to seeking a buyout of his contract.
But O'Neal said he feels too close a bond to the Suns and his teammates, after a season filled with off-court difficulties, to leave the team to now pursure an opportunity with a playoff team.
O'Neal, in his 17th season, was sidelined earlier this season by an irregular heartbeat. The 34-year-old also found out recently that his 13-year-old daughter will have to undergo her own heart procedure next month after a longstanding illness.
"Obviously, I've been through a lot this year," O'Neal said. "And these guys have been very supportive. When I met with some of the guys after the Golden State game (Wednesday night) to talk about what I was going to do, I was a little emotional about it, to be honest with you.
"Obviously, you'd like to win more games at this point of your career. We all want to have more wins and losses, but ultimately it came down to the fact that, sometimes, it means more to stay and finish the job than running to that shiny new car that's trying to drive to the championship.
"To me, it would have sent a bad message to the guys that have been there for me to say, 'I'm going to leave now and go compete for a championship.' (Suns owner Robert) Sarver made a commitment to me and I want to finish the job, do what I signed up to do and help this team and help this city build some positive momentum going into next year."
O'Neal has had a productive season in Phoenix despite the challenges he and his family have faced on top of his own heart scare, otherwise benefiting from his exposure to the Suns' highly regarded training staff in his recovery from a wrist problem and knee woes that have plagued him throughout his career.
O'Neal has averages of 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in just under 17 minutes per game this season.
O'Neal said he's not sure how much longer he intends to play beyond this season but is already planning to return to Germany in the offseason for another round of the treatment that has made his left knee feel better than it has in years.
"You see me playing without those big braces," O'Neal said. "It really works."