O'Neal has small ligament tear in knee

Updated: June 2, 2004, 9:42 AM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Indiana Pacers All-Star Jermaine O'Neal said Tuesday night that his injured left knee will probably keep him from playing for the U.S. Olympic team this summer.

Jermaine O'Neal
Power Forward
Indiana Pacers
78 20.1 10.0 2.1 .434 .757

After the Pacers were eliminated 69-65 by Detroit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, O'Neal, who has said he would wait until the season was over to make a decision on Athens, was asked the question one more time.

"If I had to say today if I was going to Athens, I would say 'No,' " O'Neal said.

He played the last three games of the series on a sprained and bruised left knee that was injured in Game 4 when he landed awkwardly while going for a rebound.

O'Neal said he had a small ligament tear and would need 4-to-6 months to recover.

When O'Neal went down in Game 4, so did the Pacers' chances at a trip to the NBA Finals. The knee seriously hindered O'Neal on both ends of the floor.

O'Neal had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Game 6, but wasn't anywhere near the dominating presence he was during the regular season when he finished third in the MVP voting.

Long before that injury, O'Neal openly wondered if he would play in Athens, citing wear and tear on his body from three straight summers of international basketball and a mild concern for his safety in the region.

Losing the athletic 6-foot-11 forward/center would be a big blow for the Olympic team to overcome, especially since big men like Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Kenyon Martin have all begged off.

Pistons center Ben Wallace could fill some of the void. He said Tuesday he expects to play for the team in Athens.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press