The Indiana Pacers have withheld from trading Jermaine O'Neal at least in part because they're still hopeful that the Los Angeles Lakers will change their stance and consent to surrendering Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum in a trade for O'Neal, according to NBA front-office sources.
In the meantime, sources say Indiana has discussed another O'Neal deal in which the New Jersey Nets would send the Pacers a package featuring veteran swingman Richard Jefferson and young center Nenad Krstic.
It's not yet clear whether the Pacers would proceed with New Jersey if the Lakers don't budge. Jefferson, for one, believes that his Nets bosses wouldn't make this deal, telling ESPN.com's Andy Katz: "They said they want to keep the team together."
In the short term, sources say, Indiana remains focused on dealing with the Lakers, with the Pacers convinced that discussions can be revived even though L.A. has repeatedly indicated that it's unwilling to part with Odom and Bynum in the same deal.
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett is the Lakers' dream trade target, but they privately acknowledge that the Phoenix Suns are the favorites to land Garnett -- this summer if not during Thursday's draft -- given Garnett's preference to wind up with the Suns.
Yet L.A. maintains that pairing O'Neal with Kobe Bryant won't move them very far up the Western Conference ladder if it costs them Odom and Bynum in the same trade. It's also no lock that acquiring O'Neal would appease an increasingly distant Bryant, as the Lakers believed before Bryant's determined push to be traded over the past month.