Wednesday , Jan , 31 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Heat still waiting on Shaq

(Sports Network) – Trailing both Washington and Orlando in the Southeast
division, Miami welcomed the return of center Shaquille O’Neal to the lineup
last Wednesday.

Then the club promptly went out and dropped a 96-94 overtime contest to the
Indiana Pacers. O’Neal didn’t start the game, but went on to score five points
and grab five rebounds in 14 minutes.

O’Neal played just over 15 minutes two days later against the Knicks in a
116-96 setback and scored 11 points to go along with four rebounds.

That was the last action the big fellow would see though as he has missed the
Heat’s last two games. Overall, Miami has dropped five of its last seven games
and trail the Wizards by 7 1/2 games for the division lead.

O’Neal spent 32 straight games on the inactive list after having left knee
surgery on November 19 and his return is expected to stabilize a club that is
still without its head coach.

Head coach Pat Riley announced on January 3 that was taking a medical leave of
absence. Instead, the Heat will continue to settle on the shoulders of the
Dwayne Wade, who just recently turned 25.

On the bright side, Wade is averaging 28.4 points per game this year and is
gaining valuable leadership experience without O’Neal in the lineup that will
help him down the road.

Wade’s popularity is thriving as well, as he was the top vote-getter among
Eastern Conference guards for the All-Star game, earning him a starting spot.
His 2,029,591 votes were fourth overall.

O’Neal also earned a starting bid despite his lengthy injury. It will be
O’Neal’s 14th consecutive All-Star appearance, which ties him with Lakers
legend Jerry West and Utah great Karl Malone for most all-time.