O'Neal calls sitting out rest of season 'worst-case scenario'

Updated: January 21, 2008, 4:55 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal called sitting out the season with a bruised left knee a "worst-case scenario" and refused to put a timetable on his return.

Jermaine O'Neal

O'Neal

"I don't know when I'm coming back," O'Neal said before Monday's game against Philadelphia.

The Pacers said Saturday that O'Neal would miss at least two weeks. And O'Neal acknowledged before the game that he might have rushed back too soon from offseason knee surgery.

"Missing the season is a worst-case scenario," O'Neal said Monday.

But he told The Indianapolis Star for Monday's edition that he was willing to sit out the rest of the season, calling it the "prime option for me."

O'Neal planned to visit specialists in New York or Los Angeles for additional evaluation.

Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said he expected O'Neal to return and help Indiana chase the final East playoff spot. Indiana (18-23) began Monday a half-game behind New Jersey (18-22) for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings.

"Our medical people think it's a minimum of two weeks," O'Brien said. "They fully expect him to play this year."

A six-time All-Star, O'Neal is averaging 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks this season, but he has missed eight games and barely practiced the last two or three weeks. Over the past 3½ seasons, O'Neal has missed 90 games due to injuries, illnesses and suspensions.

"I've played at a very average level because of the pain, because of the swelling," O'Neal said.

He said he was surprised he has not fully recovered from last April's knee surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage.

O'Neal even apologized to the Pacers for stepping away from basketball to recover.

"I'm not helping the team at the level I'm used to helping," he said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE