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Shaq's return from injury is cut short

Posted Apr 3 2011 7:01PM - Updated Apr 4 2011 6:49AM

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal limped off the court 5 minutes into his first game back in more than two months with a new injury that casts new doubt on his ability to help the team in the playoffs.

After missing 27 games with a sore right leg, O'Neal entered Sunday night's game against the Detroit Pistons with 4:43 left in the first quarter. He scored on Boston's first two possessions and again later before grabbing a seat for the final play of the quarter.

Then, after returning for the start of the second, he lasted just 49 seconds more before limping off to the locker room accompanied by medical staff. The team said he had a strained right calf - the previous injury was in his right Achilles' tendon - and that he would be re-evaluated at halftime; at the break, a Celtics spokesman said he would not return.

It's not clear how long the injury will sideline the 39-year-old former NBA MVP. The Celtics had been counting on him to take important minutes at center in the playoffs - especially after trading Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic, who is day-to-day with a bone bruise in his right knee.

A 15-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion, O'Neal signed with the Celtics for the veteran's minimum salary last summer for the chance to win another title. He has been limited to 37 games this season and is averaging 9.3 points.

He missed a week in November with a bruised right knee, a week in December with a calf injury and another in January with a sore right hip. He returned for three games - a total of about 34 minutes - before missing the next 27 games with what the team officially has called a sore right leg.

Although the injury was originally expected to keep him out just a few games, his absence stretched to more than two months.

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