8:02 PM February 8, 2008
O'Brien expects O'Neal to remain a Pacer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Pacers coach Jim O'Brien expects Jermaine O'Neal back sometime after the NBA All-Star break -- in an Indiana uniform.
O'Neal has been sidelined since the middle of last month with a bone bruise in his left knee. The Feb. 21 trade deadline comes just four days after the All-Star game, and O'Neal's name will surely surface in some speculation before then.
The star forward was mentioned in deals with the Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets during the summer, but O'Brien doesn't think he needs to worry about talking to O'Neal about the topic in the coming days because he's not playing.
"If somebody was playing for you, you'd wonder where their mind-set is if there are trade rumors out there," O'Brien said. "The fact is, we don't anticipate having him back until after the All-Star break and by that time I imagine he'll still be a Pacer.
"So all the rumors, if there are still any out there -- and I haven't heard any frankly -- will be for naught."
O'Neal hasn't even played 70 games in a season since 2003-04, but O'Brien doesn't think the current injury will limit the former All-Star once he returns.
"When he comes back, we expect him to be full go. There's nothing that our people have seen that it's a long-term problem," O'Brien said. "I fully expect to have him back at the end of this year and if he's a Pacer for two more years of his contract or longer than that, I fully expect him to play at 100 percent."
I wonder if O'B's saying this because of his slip of the tonque, or the Pacers just realize trading JO for someone like Vince Carter really doesn't fix anything. It would be fixing one spot at the expense of another.