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NBA: OíNeal confirms plan calling for trade with Raptors

By Cliff Brunt
Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS ó The Indiana Pacers are trading six-time All-Star forward Jermaine OíNeal to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic, the 17th pick in the draft (Roy Hibbert) and a player to be determined.
OíNeal confirmed the trade Thursday, saying he was pleased with the move by team president Larry Bird.
iHe wanted to get me to a place where I could contend and do what Iím capable of doing,î OíNeal told The Associated Press. iWe both agreed that the timing was perfect. His focus on getting (the Pacers) to a level where they can grow and start to be competitive was tremendous.î
OíNeal wasnít surprised by the trade.
iI knew last year that this time would be coming,î he said.
Pacers spokesman David Benner said he could not confirm the trade.
iWeíre stuck in our role here ó the players can say whatever they want; we canít say anything,î Benner said.
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that he was in the midst of ifour or fiveî conversations with teams involving Ford and a combination of Torontoís No. 17 pick and/or other Raptors players leading up to Thursday nightís draft.
A deal canít be finalized until July 1, when Fordís base-year compensation tag comes off the books.
OíNeal said he took his physical Wednesday, but he wasnít sure if Ford had finished his.
OíNeal, who will turn 30 before entering his 13th season, has a contract paying him more than $44 million over the next two seasons. He now will be a part of a powerhouse front line with all-star forward Chris Bosh.
iI think playing alongside Chris Bosh gives us a different dynamic,î OíNeal said. iYou look at teams in the NBA, you look at their low-post players, and they always have one good player, and when that good player goes out, you can change your defense a little bit and load up on other areas. Even with us starting out the games together, one of us will always be on the floor. You wonít get a chance to adjust your defense.î
Thatís one of the main reasons he believes the Raptors can contend for an NBA title next season.
iYouíre talking about a team thatís extremely athletic, extremely big at the wing positions, and they play defense,î OíNeal said. iWith my defensive mentality and ability to change the game and Chrisí ability to block shots and change the game ó itís exciting.î
Acquiring Ford would give the Pacers a possible replacement at point guard for Jamaal Tinsley, who is unpopular with fans and has missed much time with injuries in recent seasons.
Ford has his own health problems, including being diagnosed in 2001 with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the openings of the vertebra the spinal cord runs through. He suffered a neck injury in February 2004 and was sidelined until the 2005-06 season.
Ford averaged a career-high 14 points and 7.9 assists in 2006-07 as the Raptors won the Atlantic Division. Last season, Ford missed 24 games after hitting his head on the court during a December game and ended up averaging 12.1 points and 6.1 assists.
Nesterovic, a 7-footer, averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds last season in his ninth NBA season.
The Pacers also would get Torontoís pick at No. 17, Hibbert, as part of the deal. Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 278-pound center from Georgetown, averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game as a senior.
OíNeal averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 42 games last season, missing 33 games in midseason because of pain and swelling from an injured left knee.

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