The 13-time All-Star will undergo knee surgery and be sidelined four to six weeks, the Heat said Friday. O'Neal tore cartilage in his left knee Sunday against Houston, an injury originally diagnosed as a hyperextended knee.
Last season, O'Neal sprained his ankle in Miami's home opener and missed the next 18 games. He sat out a total of 23 games, and the Heat went 10-13 without him before their postseason charge to the NBA title.
The 34-year-old O'Neal missed Tuesday's game, practiced Thursday
and was expected to play Friday against the New York Knicks. But
knee stiffness sent him to the doctor Friday for an MRI that
revealed a flap tear in the articular cartilage.
The Heat announced shortly before tipoff that O'Neal would
undergo surgery, with the date to be determined.
"I kind of knew something was wrong with him," teammate Dwyane
Wade said. "It's important for him to get it taken care of,
because we need him down the stretch."
O'Neal, wearing a sport coat and tie, watched the game from the
bench as the Heat lost 100-76, dropping their record to 3-5. O'Neal
missed two games earlier in the season with a bruise to the knee
and would miss 18 to 25 games if sidelined four to six weeks.
"Injuries are part of the game," coach Pat Riley said. "You
deal with them."
O'Neal was hurt when he collided with Chuck Hayes of Houston.
Hayes is expected to miss up to two weeks with a bruised and
hyperextended left knee.
The defending champion Heat have yet to put their entire
starting lineup on the court together. Guard Jason Williams,
returning from arthroscopic knee surgery July 21, played for the
first time this season Friday.
O'Neal, who has averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in four
games, was replaced in the starting lineup by Alonzo Mourning.
Team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick will perform the surgery on
O'Neal, which is expected to take only 20 to 30 minutes, Riley
said. O'Neal can begin rehabilitation immediately afterward, and
the projected timetable for his recovery means he would return
sometime from Dec. 23 to Jan. 7.