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O'Neal backtracks on talk about trade to Lakers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal isn't
demanding a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's open to the
idea.

While O'Neal has been the subject of trade talk since the Pacers
missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, the new
discussion was stirred up Monday when ESPN.com and SI.com quoted O'Neal as
saying he would "welcome a trade to the Lakers" and mentioned the
New Jersey Nets as another possible destination.

O'Neal, a six-time All-Star, downplayed the trade talk in an
interview with The Associated Press.

"I don't think me saying I'd like to go with those teams is me
saying I want to be traded," he said.

O'Neal said he recognized that the Pacers are rebuilding with
young players and he might not be part of future plans.

"If they want to move in a different direction, I wouldn't be
disgruntled about it," he said. "If I am traded, it would be
seven great years I had with this team. And if I'm going to be
here, I'd welcome it with open arms."

His agent, Arn Tellem, flatly denied the trade talk in an e-mail
to the AP.

"He hasn't requested a trade to the Lakers," Tellem wrote.
"Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate."

Pacers president Larry Bird didn't rule out a trade.

"In any discussions regarding him or any of our other players,
the expectations for the franchise and our fans is to receive fair
market value in return if a trade is to be considered," Bird said
in a statement Monday.

O'Neal averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks last
season in one of the best performances of his 11-year career.