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Saturday, February 4, 2006
Knee injuries ending Bender's career at 25

Associated Press

Indiana Pacers forward Jonathan Bender is almost certain his career is over because of a series of knee injuries.

"Due to a medical condition in my knees, I will not be able to continue playing basketball," the 25-year-old forward said Saturday in a statement released by the team. "The Pacers gave me the chance to play with, and against, the best players in the world."

Though he does not expect to play again, Bender has not yet filed official retirement papers with the NBA.

Toronto made Bender the fifth pick in the 1999 draft, then traded him to Indiana before the season started. He played seven seasons with the Pacers, but never in every game. His best season was in 2001-2002, when he averaged 7.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The 7-foot Bender also played guard at times. He made 87 3-pointers in his career. As a defender, he was an intimidating shot blocker.

Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said Bender is a hard worker who appreciated the chance to play in the NBA.

"I'm sad for him, for his family," Carlisle said. "A situation like this couldn't happen to a more undeserving person. Jonathan really is a great kid. He wanted to play basketball in the worst way and he wanted to help this franchise in the worst way."

When healthy, Bender presented mismatches and was a force on the boards. But he rarely was able to contribute. He played in 237 regular-season games with 27 starts, and was limited to nine games the past two seasons.

"It'll be one of the questions when you look back in history. How good could this guy have been?" Carlisle said. "I'm not sure that there was any limit to his potential. It was just not to be."