O'Neal nearing trade to Toronto for Ford

NEW YORK – After on-and-off again negotiations, the Indiana Pacers have agreed in principle to send six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford and the 17th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, a league executive said Wednesday.

After nearly completing the deal earlier in the week, Pacers and Raptors officials needed to exchange more medical information on O’Neal’s left knee and Ford’s neck before finding a comfort level with the trade. It is believed both sides now are comfortable making the deal, though the trade won't be complete until both O'Neal and Ford pass their physicals.

Toronto also will send Rasho Nesterovic and another role player to match up with O’Neal’s salary. O’Neal is owed $44 million over the next two seasons. He played just 42 games for Indiana a year ago with a left knee injury. O'Neal has expressed a desire to leave the Pacers for a contender.

Ford, who has a history of neck injuries, became expendable when Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo decided that he wanted to make Jose Calderon the franchise’s future at point guard.

Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition that narrows the openings the spinal cord runs through. He missed the 2004-05 season with the Bucks following neck surgery, and missed 13 games with a neck injury last season after Atlanta’s Al Horford leveled him on a breakaway layup. Ford has $25 million and two years left on his contract. Indiana had been searching for a point guard and Ford takes the job now.

Calderon is a restricted free agent, and Colangelo has insisted that he’ll match any offer for him. Clearly, the Raptors will belong to him now.

The Pacers would now hold the 11th and 17th picks in the draft.