The knee injury that Shaquille O’Neal passed off Sunday night as nothing more than a minor annoyance will instead keep him out of tonight’s game against the Clippers at the Pond of Anaheim and has his availability for the Lakers’ Wednesday showdown with the Chicago Bulls in doubt.
An MRI exam Monday determined that O’Neal had suffered a mild sprain of the right knee in his collision with Washington’s Gheorghe Muresan near the end of the third quarter Sunday at the Forum. The all-star center then sat out the final period while the Lakers completed an easy 129-99 victory.
Afterward, he indicated it was a minor problem--"I’ll take a Tylenol, I’ll be all right"--and when asked if he would be ready Tuesday for the Clipper game responded, “Of course.”
But Monday, with a visit to team physician Steve Lombardo already scheduled, O’Neal awoke with some pain and the sprain was later diagnosed.
“We’ve just got to wait and hope for the best,” Coach Del Harris said after the Lakers went through a practice without O’Neal. “It’s one of those things. You hope it’s OK soon.”
Soon being Wednesday, when the Bulls come to town for a meeting of the No. 1 teams in the Western and Eastern conferences, because tonight has already been ruled out.
In the absence of O’Neal, Elden Campbell, coming off a 15-point, 10-rebound showing in only 31 minutes against the Bullets, will move to center and rookie Travis Knight will become the starting power forward, his first time in the opening lineup as a pro.
“We’re starting to get a little more comfortable with the system, so I think guys can go in there and play as good a game, even when some guys are out,” Harris said. “Obviously, a back-to-back with the Clippers and Chicago offers a tremendous challenge to our team, but an even bigger one with somebody out. So we’ll do the best we can.”
They may also have to do it without another key player. Byron Scott attended Monday’s practice but did not participate because of a bruised right knee, an injury he suffered when he slipped and fell at home Sunday night.
Scott is day to day, but the Lakers have not yet ruled him out for tonight.
O’Neal will receive therapy and then will be reevaluated Wednesday, before tipoff against the Bulls.
O’Neal has missed one other game, Jan. 3 against the Sacramento Kings, because of a sprained right ankle. The Lakers won, 100-93, and Campbell, moved to center, responding with 22 points and 15 rebounds, both of which remain season highs.
* FISHER PREVAILS
After disappointment, Derek Fisher will play in rookie all-star game. C4