Thigh bruise keeps Pacers' O'Neal out of practice

Updated: October 9, 2005, 8:24 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal sat out Sunday's practice with a right thigh bruise, but expects to play against New Jersey in Tuesday's preseason opener.

O'Neal attended the Pacers' annual FanJam at Conseco Fieldhouse, although he didn't participate in the 20-minute scrimmage. Jeff Foster and David Harrison also sat out the scrimmage with nagging injuries.

"We just thought it would be a good idea to lay off of it today," O'Neal said. "It was the perfect situation for me to rest my leg and get right back at it tomorrow [Monday] at practice."

Harrison, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, has been bothered by a pain near his ribs on the right side of his body, and Foster is still recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery.

O'Neal said the Pacers, who started training camp last week, will be ready to play against New Jersey, despite the possibility of missing Foster and Harrison.

"We looked really good," O'Neal said. "I was really impressed with how guys competed and the type of shape that they were in."

One of the crowd's loudest ovations Sunday was for Ron Artest, who missed nearly all of last season after being suspended for his role in the brawl with Detroit fans.

"It felt good to play in front of people again," said Artest, who saw time at both small and power forward during the scrimmage. "They gave everybody good receptions, so I was happy."

Among the new Pacers to get their first taste of playing at Conseco Fieldhouse was rookie Danny Granger, the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

"It was a lot of fun to get the fans going a little bit," said Granger, who is still recovering from offseason knee surgery. "It's a little different when you're playing in front of fans, so it's good to get out there and do that again."

It's not just the fans that are excited about the Pacers' chances this season. The players expect nothing less than an NBA championship.

"All and all, we have the talent, the depth and the experience," O'Neal said. "We know what it takes to compete with the best and to get over that hump. We set the bar high and guys have to really step their game up."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press