- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

MIAMI — For the second day in a row, Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal refused to speak to the media yesterday.

After keeping reporters waiting in front of his locker for 30 minutes Sunday night, O’Neal sneaked out after the Heat’s 105-86 victory over the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of their playoff series.

O’Neal, limited by foul trouble, had 19 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes before fouling out. Experienced Shaq-watchers said O’Neal sometimes clams up after such games so he doesn’t risk ripping the officials publicly.

Yesterday O’Neal either still was ticked off or simply didn’t feel like talking.

Miami coach Stan Van Gundy noted that O’Neal, guarded primarily by center Brendan Haywood, drew just one offensive foul. According to the coach, it was a questionable call.

‘I thought Brendan Haywood did a great job flopping on that one,’ Van Gundy said. ‘He was actually on [O’Neal’s] side — he wasn’t even in front of him. He was beaten, so he took a chance, and he got it.’

O’Neal has been bothered by a pair of bruised thighs, but he did not seem to be in much pain.

?He started the game great. I thought he had good energy, and he was very much a force down in the low post,? Van Gundy said. ‘I thought he didn’t do as good a job on the boards as he could, and we’ll look for some improvement there. … There are some things we want him to do to stay out of foul trouble, and we’ll go over those.’

Beach boys

In an attempt to ease the grind of the playoffs — and perhaps avoid endless questioning about how to stop O’Neal — the Wizards went to South Beach to catch some rays and take in the sights.

?We’re going to the beach and enjoy the sunlight, and hopefully some of the veterans can pay for some of the things out there,? point guard Gilbert Arenas said.

Reminded he is a veteran and has the second-largest paycheck on the team, Arenas jokingly said, ‘Shh, don’t tell anybody that.’

Drop your shorts

Arenas, who went to wearing shorter shorts in Game 6 of the series against the Bulls, switched back to his longer ones in the second quarter Sunday and said he probably will wear them again tonight even if the league fines him because they’re too long.

‘I’m not worried about it,’ Arenas said. ‘I watched the Boston series, and they were wearing their shorts down to their socks. If they are just paying attention to us, there’s a problem out there.’

Arenas said the league fined him earlier in the season when he wore blue and orange sneakers.

Good-luck charm

Arenas said he expects his secret good-luck charm — his father, Gilbert Sr. — to attend tonight’s game.

Why is this news?

‘Because we’re 15-0 when my father is at games,’ Arenas said.

Hard to please

Miami coaches and players watched a lot of film yesterday. Although Washington shot just 36.8 percent and committed 17 turnovers Sunday, Van Gundy was not entirely pleased with the Heat’s performance.

‘I did not think we did a very good job defensively, and I didn’t think we were quite as organized against their changing defenses as we could be,’ he said. ‘I think we’ll be much better [tonight].’

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