"The first verbal commitment of the NBA offseason has yet to be made public with actual signings remaining forbidden until July 16, but the Indiana Pacers appear to be on the verge of taking Jermaine O'Neal's name off the list of available free agents.
Pacers president Donnie Walsh spent a good portion of his Monday discussing fine points with Arn Tellem, the agent for O'Neal, as sentiment grew around the league that O'Neal was virtually off the market.
Another sign? O'Neal's scheduled visits this week with the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks have been canceled.
"Arn says (O'Neal) wants to be here, and we certainly want to get the contract done," Walsh told ESPN.com. "I feel good about (negotiations)."
Walsh emphasized that an agreement has not been finalized but said the Pacers' intention to give O'Neal a seven-year maximum contract worth an estimated $120-plus million was made "clear from July 1" to O'Neal's camp.
Tellem could not be reached on Monday, but league sources indicate that O'Neal and the Spurs mutually canceled Wednesday's scheduled visit, with San Antonio firmly focused on its No. 1 free-agent target: New Jersey's Jason Kidd. O'Neal also called the Mavericks on Monday to inform them he will not be touring Dallas, either.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, send Stein a question for possible use on ESPNEWS."
Less opposition in the West I hope.