MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal flew Monday to Los Angeles to seek medical treatment for a hip injury that has sidelined him the past five games.
O'Neal's departure two games into a five-game trip is the latest setback for an injury-plagued team that has the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 8-26 and has lost seven games in a row. O'Neal had said Sunday he had hoped to return to the lineup Tuesday at Minnesota.
He bruised his left hip Dec. 22 when he dived for a loose ball and slid into the scorer's table during the a win over Utah. He aggravated the injury in a Dec. 26 loss at Philadelphia and hasn't played since.
The hip injury and a sore left knee have contributed to the least productive season of O'Neal's 16-year career. He is averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds in 29 games.
Injury layoffs have been common for O'Neal in recent years. He missed 39 games last season, when he underwent left knee surgery. He sat out 21 games during the Heat's 2005-06 championship season because of a sprained ankle and sprained thumb.
The Heat lost O'Neal's backup, Alonzo Mourning, for the season when he tore two knee ligaments in a Dec. 19 loss at Atlanta. Dwyane Wade, Jason Williams and Dorell Wright have all battled injuries recently.
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