MIAMI (AP) -Shaquille O'Neal will miss at least two weeks because of pain in his left hip and leg, another blow to the Miami Heat's dismal season.
An MRI exam on O'Neal's ailing left hip Tuesday found acute inflammation in that joint and the quadriceps muscle in the same leg. He will be treated with ice for two weeks, but essentially banned from all other activity in the hope that rest will cure the problem.
O'Neal will miss at least six games, barring a change in the recovery plan. The earliest he could return under the new timetable is Feb. 6 at Detroit.
``His activity, the activity, is exacerbating it,'' said Heat coach Pat Riley, whose team has lost 14 straight games, three shy of the franchise record. ``That's all. That's what happens. He's trying to do everything he can do. He's gotten all the treatment he can get. And now it's probably going to be an inactive period of time until the thing heals.''
O'Neal was not available to reporters Tuesday.
He sustained 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 during 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 All-Star game selections - which matches an NBA record at 14 straight - could be in jeopardy.
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 out. Centers Joel Anthony and Earl Barron also are on the Heat roster, although they've combined to play only 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,'' he said.
For now, Blount - who started 81 games for Minnesota last season and who has averaged 5.7 points in 16 minutes per game this season - will be the primary pivot man for 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 play alongside O'Neal and Mourning and help 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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