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February 7, 2008 11:02 AM

Suns will be Shaq-less against Sonics

Posted by Percy Allen

Breathe easy Sonics fans. Barring a small miracle, Shaquille O'Neal will not play tomorrow against Seattle.

At his first Phoenix Suns press conference this morning, O'Neal held up a No. 32 jersey and said he wanted to "slide in quietly" into the lineup, which brought a few laughs from the packed room full of reporters and Suns players and administrators.

O'Neal hasn't played since Jan. 21 because of a hip and quadriceps injury, however, he passed a physical on Wednesday. Still he wants to get in a few practices with the Suns and said he'd like to make his debut before the All-Star break.

The 35-year-old center vowed to show critics who say he's lost a step that he can still be one of the most dominant players in the NBA.

"I look forward to making people eat their words, I really do," O'Neal said.

The four-time NBA champion said he wants to win five or six rings before he retires. His current contract expires after next season.

O'Neal, who was dealt for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks, described his relationship with Pat Riley as a "professioinal relationship." He said the trade "answered my prayers," and "was a blessing."

The 7-foot-1, 312-pound center also intends to mentor Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire.

"I used to tell my friends, he's going to be 'The Next,'" O'Neal said. "So now to be able to be his big brother right here with him, and play with him, and watch him, tell him about certain things and help him get to that next level, it's going to be exciting. ... This is the Amare Stoudemire Project for me. I look forward to making him the top power forward in the league."

Phoenix probable starting lineup
F -- Grant Hill
F -- Boris Diaw
C -- Amare Stoudemire
G -- Raja Bell
G -- Steve Nash

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