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Shaq Re-aggravates Abdominal Injury

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A bad Laker showing Tuesday night in Denver was made worse with word that Shaquille O’Neal had re-aggravated his strained abdominal muscle, an injury that cost him two days of practice earlier in training camp and now appears as bothersome as the team feared.

O’Neal was hurt early in the first quarter of the 101-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets, did not return, and was set to return to Los Angeles to be re-examined today while the Lakers are in Las Vegas to play the Washington Wizards. Only then will the extent of the injury be known.

The Lakers know about the delicate nature of the abdominal strain--it cost them Sedale Threatt for all but a few minutes of the 1995 playoffs, at least a minor factor in the second-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs, and led to an extended stint on the injured list for Randolph Keys in 1994-95. At its worse, it can sideline a player for months.

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O’Neal was hurt after playing four minutes, and the Nuggets took advantage to maintain control almost the entire game, especially after dominating the third quarter, 23-11. Elden Campbell and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 15 points each while Mario Bennett, solidifying his chances to earn the final roster spot, grabbed 11 rebounds in 12 minutes.

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News that the Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved development of the new downtown arena will be greeted with interest in New York, home of the NBA office and the people who would love to stage an All-Star game here for the first time since 1983.

“The Lakers are one of our flagship franchises and it’s a great city,” one league official said shortly after the vote. “I’m sure we’d look very hard at Los Angeles. We’d welcome a bid from them if they had the interest.”

Which they do, but in time. It’s not at the top of the priority list now, considering this season hasn’t even started and a shovel hasn’t gone into the ground for the new building.

That pace isn’t a problem for the NBA, which allows teams to bid for All-Star weekends but, judging by history, won’t award the event before an arena is completed anyway. Based on plans to have the Lakers and Kings in the new arena for 1999-2000, and considering lead time for promotional and logistic purposes, the soonest the game would be played here is February, 2001.

The appeal of Los Angeles is obvious. It has enough hotels to handle the visitors and enough space other than at the arena for the peripheral happenings of the weekend. And, the weather. After a string of Eastern (read: cold) cities--Cleveland last season, New York this February and Philadelphia in 1999, L.A. will seem a breath of spring.

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