Shaq's sore knee keeps him sidelined; Laettner activated

Saturday, February 26th 2005, 11:42 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Shaquille O'Neal was held out of Miami's game against Orlando on Saturday because of continued pain in his sprained left knee.

Michael Doleac started in place of the star center. O'Neal's status for Sunday, when the Heat visit Orlando to complete a weekend home-and-home series, remains uncertain.

``It's strictly day by day,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``If he wakes up tomorrow and is around on it and feels better, I would think he would go out and play.''

Before Saturday's game, the Heat activated forward Christian Laettner from the injured list and placed guard Steve Smith on the injured list. Smith returned to Miami, where he played from 1991-94, in a trade Thursday that sent forward Malik Allen to Charlotte.

O'Neal is averaging 22.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this season, plus has an NBA-leading field-goal percentage of 59.9.

He was injured Tuesday night, less than two minutes into the game at Chicago. He leaped to catch an alley-oop pass from Dwyane Wade but tumbled awkwardly over Bulls forward Othella Harrington. O'Neal did not return and didn't suit up for the game in Indiana on Wednesday. Miami lost both games in overtime.

O'Neal has missed only three starts this season for Miami. A variety of injuries sidelined him for 15 games in each of his last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.

``The biggest concern is getting Shaq back,'' Van Gundy said.

Laettner was on the injured list since Feb. 3 with an inflamed arch. He entered Saturday with season averages of 5.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes. Without Allen to help fill Miami's big-man rotation, Laettner will play an important role.

``He'll be essential the rest of the year,'' Van Gundy said. ``We really don't have a lot of people at the (power forward) spot. ... We hope Christian's health will hold up.''

But the long-expected roster move _ the signing of former Heat center Alonzo Mourning _ still hasn't occurred. Mourning was with the team for its Saturday shootaround.

``He was up there on his own and then he watched the walkthrough,'' Van Gundy said. ``Watching, just being there helps more than anything you do, because he gets a sense of what we're trying to do from a defensive philosophy and things like that.''