Raptors Call O'Neal Trade \"Speculation\"
Jun 26, 12:51 PM (ET)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The Indiana Pacers denied on Thursday reports of a deal to trade six-time All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic, the 17th pick in the draft and a player to be named. The deal was reported by Yahoo, citing an unidentified NBA executive, and The Indianapolis Star, which cited a person familiar with the talks that it did not name.
Pacers spokesman David Benner said those reports were premature.
"There is no trade to announce. It is all speculation," Benner told The Associated Press.
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that he was in the midst of "four or five" conversations with teams involving Ford and a combination of Toronto's No. 17 pick and/or other Raptors players leading up to Thursday night's draft.
A deal can't be finalized until July 1, when Ford's base-year compensation tag comes off the books, and Yahoo and the Star both said O'Neal and Ford must still pass physicals.
The Associated Press left messages seeking comment Thursday for O'Neal's agent, Arn Tellem.
O'Neal, who will turn 30 before entering his 13th season, has a contract paying him more than $44 million over the next two seasons.
The trade would leave the Pacers without their most-prominent player since Reggie Miller retired three years ago. It would, however, give them another first-round draft pick to go with their No. 11 selection as they look to rebuild after missing the playoffs two consecutive years.
Acquiring Ford also would give them a possible replacement at point guard for Jamaal Tinsley, who is unpopular with fans and has missed much time with injuries in recent seasons.
Ford has his own health problems, including being diagnosed in 2001 with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the openings of the vertebra the spinal cord runs through. He suffered a neck injury in February 2004 and was sidelined until the 2005-06 season.
Ford averaged a career-high 14 points and 7.9 assists in 2006-07 as the Raptors won the Atlantic Division. Last season, Ford missed 24 games after hitting his head on the court during a December game and ended up averaging 12.1 points and 6.1 assists.
O'Neal averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 42 games last season, missing 33 games in midseason because of pain and swelling from an injured left knee. He tore meniscus cartilage in his left knee during the 2006-07 season and had surgery in April 2007, but it hadn't healed fully by last fall's training camp.
O'Neal and the Pacers have struggled since 2003-04 when the team had the NBA's best record at 61-21 and he finished third in the MVP voting after averaging 20.1 points and 10 rebounds. He was suspended the following season for 15 games for his role in the brawl with Detroit Pistons fans. He has missed 122 games the past four seasons.
Nesterovic, a 7-footer from Slovenia, averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds last season in his ninth NBA season.
Maybe the trade depends on whether a certain player is available to the Pacers at 17, who knows?