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ChicagoJ
10-29-2004, 10:18 AM
O'Neal likely out for opener
Forward could miss 'couple of weeks' with foot injury that has not healed

By Mark Montieth
mark.montieth@indystar.com
October 29, 2004


Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal likely will open the regular season on the injured list after an examination Thursday revealed a strained ligament in his left foot has not healed sufficiently.

Coach Rick Carlisle said there's about a 75 percent chance O'Neal will not be available when the Pacers begin their season at Cleveland on Wednesday. Carlisle also said it looks like it might be a "couple of weeks" before O'Neal plays.

"It's not 100 percent, but it's really looking like this is the way it's going to go," Carlisle said.

O'Neal, an All-Star the past three seasons and the third-place finisher in the NBA's Most Valuable Player voting last season, was injured during a private workout in Los Angeles early in August. He played in the second and third preseason games.

The Pacers close preseason play tonight against Denver at Conseco Fieldhouse.

O'Neal's teammates have been speaking optimistically of his availability for the season opener. But physical therapist Dan Dyrek evaluated him after a solo workout Thursday and determined he might not be ready.

"They just feel right now he's probably a couple of weeks away from playing," Carlisle said.

O'Neal's absence would be a major blow to a team already hampered by injuries.

Starting center Jeff Foster will open the season on the injured list after having surgery Wednesday to repair torn cartilage in his right hip. First-round draft pick David Harrison sprained his right shoulder in practice following the first preseason game and has not played since. The 7-footer might play tonight, however, and should be available for the opener.

Veteran Scot Pollard, who will start in place of Foster, and rookie free agent John Edwards are the only other available centers.

The Pacers released free agents Randy Holcomb, Desmon Farmer and Rashad Wright on Thursday, but kept Edwards.

Call Star reporter Mark Montieth at (317) 444-6406.