Jermaine to Dampier: Help!

Jermaine O'Neal is looking for help. There's no need for a want ad, though, because the Indiana Pacers' All-Star forward already has someone in mind for the job.

Someone like center Erick Dampier.

"We've talked an awful lot this summer," O'Neal said of Dampier in a Q&A with the Indianapolis Star. "I told him he should do a one-year deal.

"The only option out there for him is Atlanta. It's his judgment call. He understands we'd love to have him."

Dampier has a six-year, $50 million offer waiting for him in Atlanta, but the 30-year-old wants to join a contender after enduring eight lottery seasons at Golden State.

Dampier, drafted 10th overall by Indiana in 1996, hoped to join the Knicks as part of a sign-and-trade deal, but the Warriors refuse to take on salary to accommodate their former starting center's wishes. Dampier's only option with New York now is to sign for what's left of the Knicks' mid-level exception. According to the agent of Vin Baker, $3.5 million of the $4.9 million mid-level exception will go to Baker.

O'Neal would like to have the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Dampier do the dirty work inside for the Pacers, who were overwhelmed by Detroit's frontcourt in their Eastern Conference finals loss, to "be the guy who's guarding the best post guy or trying to score every time." Another All-Star named O'Neal fits that description in Miami.

"I'd love to play weak side and go get a couple of offensive rebounds and do stuff like that rather than coming down and having to bang against everybody and try to get the ball in there and score," O'Neal said. "That's hard on you.

"I've been begging (Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh) and those guys, 'Please get a big guy. Please get a big guy.' My back won't be hurting as much, my legs won't be hurting. I love Jeff Foster ... but we also have to have another big guy."