Shaq Out at Least Another Week
Shaquille O’Neal has been cleared to begin light individual workouts but will not be able to play for at least another week, the Lakers said Thursday after the latest examination on O’Neal’s strained abdominal muscle. That means he will miss Wednesday’s marquee matchup in Chicago and possibly the entire five-game trip.
The next scheduled progress report is not due until Wednesday or Thursday, by which time he will have missed 14 consecutive games, and 15 games in all, because of the troublesome injury just above the groin. So Sunday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Forum is out, as expected, and so are meetings with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in the opener of the trip. Stops in Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston are also in doubt.
O’Neal says he has been free of pain for five days and he will start individual drills that include running, jumping and pivoting.
The Lakers have scored 84, 99 and 92 points their last three games and shot 40.1%, but they are still No. 1 in the league in both offensive categories. Just not as convincingly as before.
Consider some of the damage from the three-game losing streak:
* They were averaging 108.2 points before and are at 105.8 now. That still makes them about three points better than the No. 2 team, Phoenix.
* They were shooting 49.2% before and are at 47.8% now, after facing two teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers, that are in the top 10 in field-goal defense.
“Those people’s defense aren’t really any better than we’ve been playing,” Coach Del Harris said, aware that his team’s inability to finish inside is a bigger problem than the opposition. “San Antonio had one of the best defenses. Miami does. Utah does. It’s kind of the ebb and flow of the NBA game.”
This would seem to be one of the ebbs.
TONIGHT vs. Houston
* Fox Sports West
Radio--KLAC (570), KWKW (1330).
Records--Lakers 15-5, Rockets 12-5.
Record vs. Rockets--1-0.
Update--The Rockets are sporting a nine-game winning streak and are 6-0 without Hakeem Olajuwon, sidelined until around the all-star break after surgery on his left knee. Kevin Willis, his replacement, is averaging 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds. The Lakers have lost three in a row for the first time in nearly two years and need a victory tonight to avoid their first four-game skid since April 9-15, 1995.