O'Neal has giving side

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

For Canada's highest-paid pro athlete, Jermaine O'Neal thus far has kept a low profile on and off the court.

That is changing for the Raptors' new big man.

Now that he's getting comfortable in his role, he is ready to show the public that Jermaine is germane. He soon will be immersed in the causes that endeared him to fans in Indiana, helping feed, clothe and educate the needy, while getting his game-face on in some commercials and lending his name to movie projects.

Deddrick Faison, O'Neal's business manager, said his client would have preferred getting his various projects started soon after the July trade that brought him from the Pacers. But if O'Neal couldn't get off the ground, neither could anything else.

"He had the knee surgery in the off-season and wanted to concentrate on a lot of summer workouts," Faison said. "While it's important for him to do his philanthropy, he wanted to focus on being a good team player first. And after being in Indiana so long, things have been a little different for him here. It takes time to form those grass roots relationships he wants to build in Toronto."

At $21,372,000 US, O'Neal's annual pay stub is tied for the second-highest in the NBA (with Jason Kidd) and behind Kevin Garnett's $24.7 million.

WORKOUT SITE A SECRET

As is tradition when the Raptors are in Los Angeles, a well-to-do local businessman invited them to have their morning shootaround in his replica Lakers court at his mansion in a gated community.

Several NBA teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers use the facility because the downtown Staples Center often is busy or miles away from the Raptors' hotel and other gyms aren't handy either. The mogul/fan guards his privacy and does not want his name or the home's location published.


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