November 24, 2007
O'Neal might play versus Cavs
By Mike Wells firstname.lastname@example.org
Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said he anticipates starting forward Jermaine O'Neal will be back in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Conseco Fieldhouse.
But a couple of things have to happen before O'Neal, who missed his second straight game with swelling in his left knee, returns. He has to be medically cleared and be ready to play at least at a 90 percent level. The Pacers will practice today.
"He has to be ready to practice," O'Brien said. "It's difficult to just play games and not practice. Jermaine knows how important he is to our team on the practice floor and also in games. He also knows why having this swelling in this leg makes it hard to practice; you almost can't. If you're not practicing, you're not really playing to your capabilities."
O'Neal, who has missed three games this season, said he didn't have an MRI on Friday because the swelling in his knee has subsided. He got ice therapy treatment during Friday's game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Seeing an improvement
Center David Harrison, who has been foul prone during his career, has given the Pacers a key contribution off the bench over the past week.
He played 19 minutes in O'Neal's absence against New Orleans, totaling 12 points, four rebounds and a block.
O'Brien wants Harrison to string together a strong month.
"I have a lot of confidence (in him)," O'Brien said. "I think what he has done the last couple of games, he's stayed relatively foul free. He's starting to show the referees his hands on defense. That's good that he's letting referees know he's not going to be grabbing people . . . It's very important for this franchise that what we have seen over the last week we continue to see from David, because he's an extremely talented, athletic basketball player."
Harrison played almost 11 minutes Friday night, grabbing three rebounds and committing four fouls.
Harrison was benched the entire second half Nov. 10 against Denver after picking up a technical foul. O'Brien said Harrison has "no choice" but to be on his best behavior with the officials because the Pacers don't plan on "tolerating him being distracted" with the officials.
Forward Ike Diogu, out since Nov. 6 with a torn left calf muscle, has started walking without his boot. He said he's doing some stretching and calf raises, but he still is not able to run.
"They don't know when that's going to happen yet," Diogu said. "They're still evaluating me."
Diogu was averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds before he was injured.