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O'Neal unlikely to play tonight

December 10, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

SACRAMENTO — Shaquille O'Neal is not expected to accompany the Phoenix Suns for tonight's game against the Lakers because he will be attending funeral services for his grandmother in Newark, N.J.

All eyes were on O'Neal and Lakers center Andrew Bynum when the two played to a relative draw Nov. 20 in the Lakers' 105-92 victory in Phoenix.

"I always like going up against him. It's a shame I won't be able to play against him for that reason," Bynum said. "My heart goes out to his family."

Bynum fought foul trouble and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes against Phoenix. O'Neal had 15 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes in that game, though he also had four turnovers.

Foul-prone rookie Robin Lopez probably will start at center tonight for the Suns, though he has been erratic when O'Neal sits, averaging nine points and four rebounds in three games as a starter.

Lopez has some experience with the starting lineup because the Suns held O'Neal out of three back-to-back games in an effort to conserve his strength and avoid injuries.

"I don't know much about him," Bynum said of Lopez. "Every time I watch, the Big Diesel's always playing."

When Lopez gets in foul trouble in games without O'Neal, Amare Stoudemire shifts to center and Boris Diaw moves to power forward.

The Machine?

Sasha Vujacic has seen his minutes and points per game decrease this season, though Lakers Coach Phil Jackson hopes Vujacic displays a team-first mind-set while on the court.

"I think it's an attitude thing with Sasha," Jackson said. "I think he thinks he has to score. But that's not it. It's about team play, and when that happens, then all those things are going to work out for him."

Last season, Vujacic averaged 8.8 points and 17.8 minutes a game while shooting 43.7% from three-point range. This season, he is averaging 4.7 points and 14.7 minutes while shooting 34.8% from three-point range.

Vujacic had no points in 10 minutes Tuesday in the Lakers' 113-101 loss to Sacramento.

Jackson said he understood if Vujacic was frustrated with a lack of playing time . . . to a certain point.

"I have numbers of players that played that role and did a very good job at it," Jackson said. "If he wants to let it be a mental thing for him, then it's going to be a mental thing.

"He's got to figure that out and not rush shots. Take good shots. It's not about quantity, it's about quality."

Sun sits again

Rookie Sun Yue was back on the inactive list for Tuesday's game after a four-point, four-foul effort in a little more than five minutes of playing time Sunday against Milwaukee.

Sun played against Milwaukee because Luke Walton was sick.

Walton suited up for Tuesday's game. Jackson could not predict when Sun would suit up again.

"You have to ask the players if they're sick or unhealthy," Jackson said. "He's there for that [fill-in] reason right now. He's not there to provide us with veteran experience."


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