Both players' possible return dates have come and gone.
When Jamaal Tinsley and Jermaine O'Neal, both dealing with knee injuries, will return is anybody's guess.
As the Indiana Pacers attempt to salvage a disappointing season, the players have taken the mind-set that they can't wait for O'Neal and Tinsley to save it.
The Pacers are 9-14 without O'Neal and 6-11 without Tinsley this season.
"That's the mind-set we have to have with them being out," small forward Mike Dunleavy said. "If we get them back, that's gravy, but this is our team and we'll have to make the most of it, and we feel like we can go out there every night and get wins."
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said Tinsley, out since Feb. 5, was expected back last week. The point guard hasn't resumed practicing with his teammates.
The Pacers said Jan. 19 that O'Neal would miss a minimum of two weeks. The next day, O'Neal said he would be willing to sit out the rest of the season if that's what it took to get his knee back to full strength.
O'Neal said before Saturday's game against the New Jersey Nets that he hopes to start practicing with his teammates soon and return at some point this season.
"I don't take the mind-set that they're not going to be back because I know they're going to be back," O'Brien said. "But our mind-set is that if guys are hurt, they can't help you tonight. There's no use worrying about people that are not in uniform."
The Pacers probably wouldn't struggle as much if one of their wing players was injured because that's their deepest position. They're trying to make do without their starting point guard and only offensive legitimate post player. The absence of Tinsley and O'Neal has been most glaring late in games when they need to get the ball inside to score.
"If you notice, in the last however many games we've been in and lost, it's always been the key player from the other team making the plays to win the games," Pacers president Larry Bird said. "We haven't got that out there. Ours is hurt. Until we get him back, we probably will struggle in that area."
The Pacers also miss O'Neal's defensive impact. The forward makes their defense look better than it really is because he blocks or alters shots when opponents penetrate the Pacers' perimeter defense.
"He's such a difference maker on both ends," Dunleavy said. "We miss him on both ends. But the thing is, this is reality, and it is what it is and he's not going to be in there. Other guys have to step up and find a way to fill the void."
Travis Diener has provided an outside game the Pacers lack with Tinsley in the lineup, but Diener can't get to the basket like Tinsley. The Pacers haven't received steady play behind Diener because Marquis Daniels and Andre Owens have been inconsistent.
"We're not using it as an excuse," center Jeff Foster said. "We have to expect to go out there and win games. We have an opportunity to win some games against teams that are fighting for a playoff spot like we are. Hopefully we can make some ground up."