'Mental rehab'

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

The game of basketball is fun again for Jermaine O'Neal.

The Toronto Raptors' biggest offseason acquisition finally has a healthy knee. Furthermore, he won't have to deal with being in the shadows of the infamous 'Malice at the Palace' against the Detroit Pistons when he was a member of the Indiana Pacers back in 2004.

Teaming up with Chris Bosh, the Raptors could have the NBA's best dynamic duo in the paint since the San Antonio Spurs had Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

"I was telling Chris (Bosh) during the last game that there came a point last year that I didn't like playing basketball," said O'Neal.

"Coming here, it's like a mental rehab for me. I was checked out, I was going through so much away from basketball (knee injuries and the big brawl), it became more about that than the game."

O'Neal's preseason started slow, but in a recent game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday the duo combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds in a 93-89 win.

"I think that's a possibility we can shoot for every night," said Bosh in reference to their performance against the Clippers.

"We can challenge each other every night."

The last couple of years, Bosh has been playing out of his natural position at power forward, and adding a player like O'Neal could vault the Raptors into being a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

The team has lacked that big body in the paint in recent seasons, and that's an area where O'Neal should really help. He has been considered one of the best defensive players in the NBA over his 12-year career.

"It's pretty much set in stone what he can do. He's been to all-star games, he's been deep in the playoffs. We know what he can do," said Bosh.

"I'm just trying to better my game and collaborate my game together so we can have some good times together."

O'Neal gives back

O'Neal had a bit of a flashback when he and six of the Raptors visited a downtown Boys and Girls Club yesterday.

"I had the great opportunity to meet Alex English, Tyrone Corbin and Xavier McDaniel and they came in and talked to me when I was in the third grade," said O'Neal.

O'Neal has been a strong supporter of various charities and he takes a personal interest in the communities he's played in through his NBA career. He's been a multiple winner of the NBA Community Assist award.

"There are a lot of these kids that don't know we sat here with the blue T-shirts doing the same things they were doing," said O'Neal.

"I understand the importance of this, it gives kids the opportunity to do something creative and it keeps them off the streets.

"Sometimes we as players forget the effect we have on kids. It gives you an opportunity to dream and believe you can be better."


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