Shaquille O'Neal will sit this one out

DALLAS -- Shaquille O'Neal ruled himself out of tonight's game against the Dallas Mavericks. O'Neal hasn't played since Oct. 29 due to a knee bruise.

The Boston Celtics will also be without center Kendrick Perkins, leaving the middle to veteran and first-year Celtic Jermaine O'Neal.

Back in the summer when Shaq was a free agent the rumor mill ran hot that the 7-footer wanted to play for the Mavericks. Nothing ever got serious with the Mavs as Shaq flirted most heavily with the Atlanta Hawks. While Shaq tried to hold out for the full mid-level exception, if not more, Shaq's options dwindled and he signed with the Celtics for the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.

At that price, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he wouldn't have minded signing the big man for his 19th NBA season.

"It would have been hard to turn away Shaq for the minimum," Cuban said. "What he was asking me for was six times what he signed for."

Plus, had the Mavs made a hard push for Shaq to team with Brendan Haywood, Cuban said it would have precluded them from making the Erick Dampier trade for 7-1 center Tyson Chandler. Chandler arrived as the presumed backup to Haywood, but the Team USA member won the starting job with his play in the exhibition season. He is slated t0 make his sixth consecutive start of the season tonight.