By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jermaine O'Neal hasn't fully healed from offseason knee surgery, and he could sit out awhile to recover.
The Indiana Pacers center left during the first quarter of Wednesday's win over Golden State with pain in his left knee and did not return. He was to have an MRI on the knee Thursday afternoon.
"It's a difficult decision," he told the Associated Press after Thursday's practice. "You don't want to take a week and a half, two weeks off and be in the same position. I want to get a better diagnosis of why the knee is swelling, and we'll go from there."
O'Neal had surgery in April 2007 after he tore meniscus cartilage in the knee. He said he is surprised the healing process has been so slow.
"It's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be," he said. "I went out and I talked to a lot of guys who have had the surgery. A lot of the guys said it was tough, but if it's something you need to have done, you should have it done."
Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said he's not sure when O'Neal will play again, but he's not expecting him to play against Sacramento.
"I have no idea whether he'll play on Saturday," O'Brien said. "My guess would be he will not, but I don't know that."
O'Brien isn't sure if sitting O'Neal would solve the problem.
"My understanding is that if we would sit him out for an extended period of time this year, during this season, he'd be in the same situation he's in right now," O'Brien said. "You don't know if he'd be able to practice, you don't know if he'd be able to play back-to-back games."
O'Neal spoke with Golden State guard Baron Davis about his knee on Wednesday. Davis had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee while playing for New Orleans in January 2003, then had surgery on the same knee to remove debris last February.
"One of his first things was, 'You probably should not play anymore, you probably should just get it totally healthy,"' O'Neal said. "But that's not really in my nature. I've always, no matter what was hurt, always played on it."
O'Neal is a six-time All-Star who averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks last season, but he has missed 89 games the past 3 1/2 seasons due to injuries, illnesses and suspensions. He has missed seven games this season, many because the knee has been unpredictable.
"I'm in a position where one week it'll be fine and the next week, it'll be really swollen," he said. "When you have fluid in your knee, it tends to affect where your knee moves, and it tends to irritate a lot of things."
O'Neal said he was having trouble during Wednesday's practice, but he started that night against the Warriors. He came out of the game with 2:58 left in the first quarter after going scoreless and committing four turnovers in the first nine minutes. He spoke with team doctors and trainers, and after a strength test, the decision was made to sit him the rest of the game.
"I tried to go out there and play and help the team," he said. "Anytime you feel like you're better off letting the next guy play, and it'll give the team a better chance of winning, you should do that."