Indianapolis - First, it seemed as though Jermaine O'Neal wanted to be traded to the Lakers. The Pacers forward told Sports Illustrated that he doesn't want to be part of the Pacers' "youth movement."
O'Neal said he wasn't physically ready to "go through another five to six years with a lot of losses and lot of down time."
The 28-year-old O'Neal spoke with Sports Illustrated while in Los Angeles for a charity basketball game. But back in Indianapolis Monday afternoon, he clarified his statements on the issue.
The big question: Did O'Neal tell Sports Illustrated that he wanted a trade from Indiana?
"No, I didn't tell him I wanted a trade. The article didn't say I wanted a trade. Obviously you go out west, there's been a lot of talk about me going out west, especially in LA, you get a lot of questions about that. I still stand pretty firm on what I've been saying the entire summer. I'm a Pacer right now until the Pacers decide to trade me," O'Neal said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness Sports shortly after arriving back to Indianapolis from the west coast.
"Would I welcome a trade to LA? Yes, I would welcome a trade to LA for multiple reasons because one, I'm familiar with the area and two, I'm really familiar with Kobe Bryant. We've known each other since I was like thirteen, and three, they're not a team that's too far away."
O'Neal says he loves Los Angeles and normally trains there in the summer. If he can't play with Kobe Bryant, O'Neal says he'd like to play for New Jersey.
So if he says he likes LA, he likes Kobe and that LA and New Jersey are possibilities, where does that leave him? "One thing that you guys do when you do interviews is take a transcript of the interview. Obviously you guys want information, something to talk about, and there's been speculation about me going different places all summer and I haven't talked much about it. When there's been questions asked, you answer and sometimes they don't really write them the way you want them to write them."
Pacers President Larry Bird issued the following statement about O'Neal Monday:
"In response to Jermaine O'Neal's published comments today regarding a trade, we have stated repeatedly that if we can make our team better through a trade, we will do so. Jermaine has become an All-Star player with the Indiana Pacers and 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.
Jermaine has worked out very hard this summer while rehabilitating his knee after surgery. We believe under Jim O'Brien that our team as a whole and Jermaine as a player can be successful. You never know what will happen, but for now Jermaine is an Indiana Pacer."