MIAMI (AP) -Shaquille O'Neal will miss at least the next two weeks because of recurring pain in his left hip and leg, the latest piece of disappointing news for the reeling Miami Heat.
An MRI exam performed Tuesday on O'Neal's ailing hip found acute inflammation in that joint and his quadriceps muscle. He will be treated with ice, but won't do any basketball-related activity - with hopes that rest will cure the problem.
O'Neal will miss at least six games, barring a change in the rehabilitation schedule. The earliest he could return under the timetable released by the team is Feb. 6 at Detroit.
ve period of time until the thing heals.''
O'Neal was not available to reporters Tuesday. He has missed an average of 20 games over the past six seasons because of an array of injuries, and still has two full seasons after this remaining on his five-year, $100 million contract with Miami.
Other tests done Tuesday, including bloodwork, ruled out the possibility of infection or other problems, the team said.
O'Neal suffered the hip injury while diving for a loose ball against Utah on Dec. 22 - the last game Miami won. He missed eight games from Dec. 28 through Jan. 11, sought treatment in Los Angeles over that stretch, and returned when the Heat started their current seven-game homestand Jan. 16.
O'Neal left Monday's game against Cleveland in the first quarter to have the hip re-taped, then returned to the game with a noticeable limp. He finished with 10 points, none after halftime.
He's averaging a career-low 14.2 points this season, and his string of 14 straight All-Star Game selections - which matches a league record - almost seems certain to end because of his latest malady.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who scored 32 of Miami's 38 second-half points in Monday's 97-90 loss to Cleveland, said it's tough to continue watching O'Neal play in obvious pain.
``He's judged more than a lot of the athletes in the world because of who he is, who he has become,'' Wade said. ``If he's playing and hurting and not playing good, he's being talked about. If he's not playing and he's trying to get healthy, then he's being talked about for taking time off. It's a lose-lose situation. As his friend, I want him to be healthy. That's the most important thing to us.''
Mark Blount likely will become Miami's new starting center, now that O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning (season-ending knee and quadriceps injuries) are hurting. Centers Joel Anthony and Earl Barron are also on the Heat roster, although they've combined to play 207 minutes this season.
Depending on how long O'Neal is out, Riley said the team might try to add another big man for depth.
``We'll talk about it,'' Riley said.
For now, Blount - who started 81 games for Minnesota last year and who has averaged 5.7 points in 16 minutes per game this season - will be the primary pivot man Miami, which has the Eastern Conference's worst record at 8-32.
When Blount was acquired before the season in a trade, he expected to spend the year playing alongside O'Neal and Mourning and helping the Heat get back to their championship form from two seasons ago.
``It's been different,'' Blount said. ``There's nothing I can do about that. Nothing you can really say. The team is looking at me to try to help them out right now. Of course, you want to be there with Shaq and be there with Zo, but that's not the situation right now.''
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