Friday, February 08, 2002

O'Neal to miss NBA All-Star game again

Lakers center out for a couple weeks

AP Sports Writer

Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, wearing street clothes, stands during a timeout during the second half of the Lakers' 97-89 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
(AP photo)
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        LOS ANGELES — Shaquille O'Neal went on the injured list Thursday because of pain in his arthritic right big toe and he will sit out the NBA All-Star game for the second straight year.

        O'Neal was put on the injured list retroactive to Wednesday — before he missed the Lakers' 97-89 loss to the Chicago Bulls — meaning he'll sit out at least four more games before being eligible to return Feb. 19 against Boston.

        O'Neal, who missed last year's All-Star game with an inflamed arch on his right foot, received the second-most votes of any player, 1,247,438, in fan balloting for this year's game, which will be played Sunday in Philadelphia.

        He was replaced on the Western Conference team by Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers. Brand, who turns 23 next month, will be making his first All-Star appearance and will be the first Clippers player in the midseason game since Danny Manning in 1994.

        The Clippers acquired Brand from the Chicago Bulls on draft day last summer for Brian Skinner and the rights to Tyson Chandler.

        Brand, the first overall selection in the 1999 draft, was averaging 18.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots entering Thursday night's game in Detroit.

        “The final decision was made today,” Lakers spokesman John Black said about O'Neal. “For the past couple months, we've said this is an injury that's going to continue to bother him the rest of the year. We've known he's going to miss some games along the way.

        “It makes sense to do this now. There's a stretch here where we can give him a minimum of five games off and help him recover for the second half of the season.”

        Black said O'Neal is in a lot of pain.

        “It's not getting better,” Black said. “Our concern obviously is in the long run, having him be as healthy as possible for the playoffs. For him to play every game the rest of the season and jeopardize his availability for the playoffs would be stupid on our part. I'm sure he would like to play all 82 games of the season. He recognizes what's best for him in the long run is to take time off.”

        O'Neal is averaging 26.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.35 blocked shots.

        He has missed nine games this season — five after being placed on the injured list on Dec. 25, three after being suspended for throwing a wild punch at Chicago's Brad Miller during a game on Jan. 12, and the game Wednesday night. The Lakers are 28-9 with O'Neal and 5-4 without him.

        “It's the logical thing to do,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before O'Neal sat out Wednesday. “This is a guy who's suffering from overuse of his toe, he's got arthritis.”

        To replace O'Neal on their roster, the Lakers activated forward-center Jelani McCoy, who had been on the injured list since Jan. 4 with a bone bruise of his right foot.

        Black said O'Neal was planning on taking a flight to Philadelphia later Thursday for All-Star weekend.

        Clippers coach Alvin Gentry was pleased Brand was chosen — even if he wasn't originally picked.

        “The guy has the second-most double-doubles in the NBA behind Tim Duncan, and you have to be playing pretty good basketball to be doing that,” Gentry said before the Clippers played in Detroit on Thursday night. “We're more than halfway through the season and we're in the playoff race for the first time in a long time, and he's been a big part of that. I'm just happy for him, he's very deserving.”


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