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Shaq is back, but not on the court

Published Oct. 1, 2005

He's coming. It doesn't matter that he's not going to suit up. What surely must be most important to Magic fans is simply that Shaquille O'Neal is coming.

Coming back to Orlando Arena this Sunday when the Los Angeles Lakers visit.

O'Neal told reporters in L.A. that, although he hasn't traveled to away games with the team while he's been recovering from his knee injury, he plans to come to Orlando on Friday to check on his house and visit his mother, who regularly attends Magic games.

That's welcome news for Magic fans, who undoubtedly have been looking forward to the game since fall. Although the teams met in L.A. in December, this will be the only visit by the Lakers during the regular season.

O'Neal, whose defection remains a sore spot for Magic fans, has no illusions about the reception he can expect at the O-rena.

"I know I'm going to get booed. I expect that," O'Neal said. "It's like going through a car wash; you know you're gonna get wet."

O'Neal obviously isn't looking to defuse the situation because when reporters asked him about the reception he expects Sunday, O'Neal said: "Who cares about those country, going-to-Disneyland fans?"

In that case, let the boos begin.

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who leads the Magic in average minutes? Hint: It's not Penny Hardaway.

NICKED UP: Nick Anderson, who has missed the past four games because of a strained right quadriceps, could return Thursday against Golden State. Anderson was expected to play Monday in Atlanta, but decided minutes before tip-off he couldn't.

Anderson, meanwhile, continues to struggle from the free-throw line. Although he has improved to 40 percent from the stripe, he has enlisted the help of ex-Magic coach Buzz Braman, who was most widely known for trying to help O'Neal with his free-throw shooting when he was with the Magic.

SAY WHAT?: After the Vancouver game Sunday, Grizzlies coach Stu Jackson was so impressed with Horace Grant that he said, "I don't know what the Magic are paying Horace Grant, but he's worth every penny."

Perhaps Jackson should have checked to see what Grant makes before saying that. Mind you, Grant has been a valuable player. But Jackson obviously didn't realize the veteran forward is getting $15-million this season _ more than Seattle's Gary Payton and Atlanta's Dikembe Mutumbo and as much as Miami's Alonzo Mourning.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Orlando, which has held 11 of its past 15 opponents under 100 points, is allowing 94.4 points a game, 10th best in the league.

FIRST FIGHT: The honeymoon for coach Richie Adubato and the players who got him promoted may be ending.

During the late-game collapse at Atlanta, veteran Gerald Wilkins could be seen bickering with Adubato after being taken out of the game.

Orlando, though, is 12-4 under Adubato, who apparently is still widely liked by the players.

DID YOU KNOW?: Forward Derek Strong is 0-of-13 from three-point range this season.

He's one of four active Magic players _ centers Rony Seikaly, David Vaughn and Danny Schayes are the others _ who haven't hit a trey.

Orlando is eighth in the league in threes with 441.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Grant, who averages 38.2 minutes. Hardaway averages 37.9 minutes.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.