Shaq travels with Heat, may miss 2-4 weeks
MIAMI -- Heat center Shaquille O'Neal will miss two to four weeks with a sprained right ankle, adding to the team's early-season injury woes.
O'Neal flew with his team to Milwaukee on Friday, shortly after learning results of an MRI exam performed earlier in the day. The team said earlier he was listed as day-to-day; a formal announcement of the updated diagnosis was expected after the team's arrival in Milwaukee.
The news, first reported by The Miami Herald on its Web site, probably wasn't surprising to teammates, who seemed resigned to playing without the 12-time All-Star after seeing him hobble and grimace after Thursday's 105-102 loss to Indiana.
"He's the most dominant player in the game," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said Thursday night. "If you don't have him it definitely hurts you. At the same time, the other guys have the opportunity to step up."
O'Neal was getting in position for an offensive rebound when he stepped on Ron Artest's foot and rolled the ankle midway through the fourth quarter of the Heat's loss to the Pacers. X-rays did not reveal a fracture, but the 7-foot-1, 340-pound O'Neal left the arena on crutches.
Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game that he expected O'Neal "to miss some time." O'Neal did not speak with reporters, and the team had no media availability before traveling on Friday.
"You never want one of your best players going down with an injury," Van Gundy said. "It's all also part of the game. We're already dealing with three veteran guys out, now a fourth veteran guy out, so some of these young guys are going to have to step up and play."
Projected starting small forward James Posey will probably miss a few more games because of an injured thumb, reserve forward Shandon Anderson has been sidelined by back spasms and isn't traveling with the team and backup center Michael Doleac hasn't made his season debut yet because of an injured calf.
O'Neal averaged 15 points and six rebounds in Miami's first two games. If he misses two weeks, that would mean Miami would be without him for six games and have him back for a home game Nov. 18 against Philadelphia. If he misses four weeks, that would keep him sidelined for 13 games and out until a Dec. 2 matchup in Sacramento.
He missed nine regular-season games and two playoff games last year because of various injuries; the Heat went 8-3 without their starting center.
"We've got enough firepower to win without him," Miami guard Dwyane Wade said. "If one person goes down, the other guys have to step up."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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