OF THE DAY
Q. I just have a few questions and concerns about the team's current status. Will Jermaine (O'Neal) be returning any time soon? What is the update?
Will Ron Artest be back for the playoffs? I have heard 10 different stories.
Will (Jamaal) Tinsley be returning soon?
Will Jonathan Bender ever be healthy or what is the likelihood of trading him for someone of value? (From Stan in Indianapolis)
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A. Some questions are easier to answer than others. It is becoming increasingly likely the Pacers will be without O'Neal for at least the rest of the regular season and possibly the playoffs. There are only 20 games and six weeks left, so there isn't much time for a complete recovery. Details of his shoulder injury have not been released because a final diagnosis has not been made, nor has a decision about the possible need for surgery. O'Neal, normally open with and accessible to the media, has chosen not to comment at all. But the team is adopting the mindset he won't be back.
NBA Commissioner David Stern's original suspension was for the rest of the season, which includes the playoffs. There has been no change in that decision, nor has there been any indication from the league that an attempt to reinstate Artest early would even be considered, let alone granted.
Tinsley has been doing some work in recent practices, giving some optimism he could be back within the next few games. But because of the nature of his injury and the fact optimism has been overruled by reality a couple of times in the past few weeks, the team is moving very cautiously.
It's a reasonable question, given that Bender – who also isn't expected back this season – has missed most of the past two years with a variety of injuries, but the Pacers aren't giving up. They remain convinced his injury problems can be conquered. Trading him really isn't a viable option because his value is at a nadir and the team has too much time and money invested in him to essentially give him away.
The Bender part is worst in there. I was really hoping we would trade him, but it looks like we won't. Tinsley coming back soon should be great for the team, but we need to make sure he's 100%.