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Old 03-30-2008, 08:06 PM   #12
Irk Woodsman
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Join Date: Feb 2008
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Default Re: Could Jermaine Return Soon In Indiana?

Jermaine O'Neal plans to return for Monday's game against Miami, and adding a six-time All-Star to the mix could provide a much-needed lift for the Pacers in their battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Iím going to play on Monday," O'Neal said after the Pacers beat New Jersey 123-115 Saturday night. "Iíll play Monday. As far as being able to really score the way that I want to score in the low box itís probably going to take me a game or so, but I think that Iím going to fit right in defensively. I think thatís what the team expects of me to do."

Out since Jan. 16 with a bone bruise and swelling in his left knee, O'Neal returned to practice March 19 and has been working to regain his game conditioning. He has missed the last 33 games, during which the Pacers went 12-21. O'Neal said he plans to take a cautious approach to playing time, at least initially, and that he expects "20 to 25 minutes off the bench" Monday night.

"Obviously, I have to play my way back into shape," he said. "Itís unfortunate that we only have nine games left but the period of time that I was out was the period of time that I needed to get my knee back. Obviously I dealt with this knee for two years, and itís been quite an issue. Itís had me in and out of the lineup. So I wanted to be done with that. Iím healed from it, and Iím looking forward to trying to get this team in the playoffs."

With the offense humming right along, averaging 112.6 points in the last eight games, O'Neal should provide the biggest lift to a defense that has yielded 113.4 points in the last five.
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