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Heat's O'Neal Is 'Iffy-Iffy'

Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page E16

Saying his bruised right thigh still hampers his mobility, C Shaquille O'Neal returned to practice yesterday -- yet was coyly noncommittal about whether he'll play when the Heat opens its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Nets.

O'Neal was injured a week ago and hadn't been on the court since. Miami Coach Stan Van Gundy said he expects O'Neal, who missed the last two regular season games, to play in today's Game 1. The 12-time all-star sounded less certain.

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"You've got to start off in the right way," O'Neal said. "I've never missed a playoff game, I don't think. This is the first time where I'm going in iffy-iffy."

O'Neal still is undergoing multiple treatments daily to alleviate pain and swelling in the leg. If O'Neal cannot play, then former Nets C Alonzo Mourning -- who asked out of New Jersey since he did not consider the team to be a championship contender -- is Miami's probable starter.

"Feeling pretty good. Went hard today," said O'Neal, who averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season with the Heat. "The true test is going to be how I feel when I wake up in the morning."

-- From News Services

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