Ankle injury forces out O'Neal
SPRAIN SIDELINES HIM AT LEAST 2 GAMES
By Mike Wells
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal is joining teammate Jamaal Tinsley on the bench in street clothes.
What was originally believed to be a mild left ankle sprain has turned out to be more serious for O'Neal. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday the team's All-Star power forward will miss at least the next two games, and possibly more.
"We were hoping it would feel better (Sunday)," Carlisle said. "But you never know with those types of injuries."
O'Neal injured his ankle when he landed on Michael Sweetney's foot after he tried to block Kirk Hinrich's shot with 6:46 left in the first half of Saturday's game at Chicago. O'Neal went straight to the locker room after being helped off the court by teammates.
O'Neal's injury comes at a time when the Pacers are already without starters Tinsley (biceps) and Ron Artest (inactive list). Backup Scot Pollard also missed the past two games with a back injury.
Austin Croshere, who has started 20 games this season, will likely start in O'Neal's place tonight at New Jersey.
The Pacers, who are 2-1 this season without O'Neal, will go from passing into the post to being more perimeter-oriented. Stephen Jackson and Fred Jones will be the team's top offensive threats. Jackson scored 21 of his game-high 29 points Saturday in the second half after O'Neal left the game.
"We have to hope Pollard is feeling better and we're going to have to depend on guys like David (Harrison) and Austin and Jeff (Foster) to pull through and we're going to have to find scoring as a team," Carlisle said. "Every team goes through their fair share of problems. We're just going to have to play through this."