WALTHAM Boston Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal wants to stay here and win an NBA title.
But if he's shipped out of Boston and winds up with a non-title contender, that may very well spell the end of his NBA career.
"If I'm not in Boston, I'm going to be somewhere where I can contend for a championship," he said. "If I'm not somewhere I can contend for a championship, then I'll be in the business world or come in and try to do what you're doing, do some interviews."
O'Neal has been the subject of a potential trade with the New Orleans Hornets that would net the C's two-time all-star David West.
Trade rumors come with the territory, says O'Neal.
"It's a business," O'Neal said. "We understand the position that these (team) presidents are in. They'll talk about anybody. If they have a chance on making the team better - in their opinion - they'll make a trade. You can't control those type of things. Just show up, come to work and focus on that."
O'Neal has had conversations with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge as well as C's head coach Doc Rivers regarding his future with the team.
He wouldn't discuss specifics from those conversations, but it's clear he is hoping for the best - staying in Boston - but being prepared for the worst which, for him, would be being traded to a bad team.
"If I go somewhere else, it won't be to a losing team," O'Neal said. "That just doesn't make any sense. It has to be a team that has an opportunity to win it. If not, then I'll focus more on my family and focus more on business."
While the deal being proposed would send him to New Orleans, he'll likely be shipped out immediately to another team.
O'Neal said he's "sure it would be a third team. They're (Hornets) not trying to get older. They're trying to build cap space and things like that. At this point in my career, any young team or team trying to get under the cap, wouldn't trade for me."
Getting rid of O'Neal seems a bit odd when you consider the Celtics do not have another center on the roster with NBA experience. However, Rivers alluded to the fact that the C's may not have a prototypical center in the starting lineup this season. If the West trade goes through, it's not out of the question to see Paul Pierce at small forward, West at power forward and Kevin Garnett start at center.
As much as trade talk seems to generate increased interest, O'Neal reiterated that his desire is to remain with the Celtics.
"That's the first option for me, to stay here," O'Neal said. "I'm getting comfortable with the guys, getting comfortable with the system. That's first and foremost. But you never want to act like you don't understand the business of the game. The business has changed dramatically over the last couple years, especially now where it's about making money (for teams) and saving money, and position yourself for future trades and stuff like that. It is what it is."