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Pacers' O'Neal joins Jackson off court to be in court

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal expects to
miss the Pacers' preseason opener against New Jersey on Wednesday
because of a lawsuit stemming from the brawl with Detroit Pistons
fans two years ago.

Jermaine O'Neal O'Neal

O'Neal could testify on Tuesday or Wednesday, leaving him
doubtful for the game. Jury selection is scheduled to start Tuesday
morning in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

O'Neal punched the plaintiff, Charles Haddad, on the court
during the Nov. 19, 2004, incident in Auburn Hills, Mich. Haddad
wants the Pacers' claims that Haddad trespassed, was intoxicated
and violated the waiver on the back of his ticket to be stricken as
defenses.

Larry Charfoos, a lawyer for Haddad, said O'Neal would likely
not testify until Wednesday at the earliest. If so, O'Neal would
make his debut Saturday at home against Utah.

O'Neal said he's happy to be nearing the end of the legal mess
left by the brawl.

"It's the icing on the cake to finish this thing off and put it
behind me once and for all," he said.

O'Neal would be one of two starters unable to play Wednesday for
non-basketball related reasons. Forward Stephen Jackson is expected
to practice Tuesday after being hit by a car outside a strip club
early last Thursday, but coach Rick Carlisle declared him out for
Wednesday's game.

Police said Jackson -- barely two weeks off probation from the
brawl with Pistons fans -- fired a gun in the air in apparent
self-defense after he was slugged in the mouth and struck by a car
that sent him tumbling onto the hood.

Jackson hasn't practiced since, and Carlisle wants to be careful
in bringing Jackson back.

"It's going to be a few days before he's going to be able to
participate in contact because he has a lot of stitches in his
lips," Carlisle said. "The plastic surgeon just wanted to make
sure those things don't get busted out until they're taken out.

"He'll return to the team tomorrow and be able to do some
non-contact things. It'll be good to have him back."