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Monday, January 14
Updated: January 15, 10:16 AM ET
Suspension will cost O'Neal $730,000 in salary

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- For the second time in three weeks, Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal is resting his aching feet. This time, it isn't by choice.

Brad Miller

Shaquille O'Neal

O'Neal was suspended for three games without pay and fined $15,000 by the NBA on Monday for throwing a wild haymaker at Chicago's Brad Miller in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 106-104 overtime loss to the Bulls on Saturday night.

Had the roundhouse right from the 7-foot-1, 341-pound O'Neal connected with full force, Miller would have probably been seriously injured and O'Neal would have received a much longer suspension.

The Los Angeles Times pegged O'Neal's three-game loss in salary at $714,286.

O'Neal did not speak to reporters following the Lakers' shootaround in nearby El Segundo on Monday and sat out a 120-81 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies several hours later.

O'Neal will also miss Wednesday night's game against visiting Miami and Saturday's nationally televised game at San Antonio, the first meeting of the season between those teams. He will be eligible to return next Tuesday night against Denver.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he spoke with O'Neal for about 30 minutes Monday.

"Clearly, he's concerned," Kupchak said. "He expressed his frustration, he's remorseful for what he did."

Kupchak said he could understand O'Neal's frustration, but made it clear he didn't approve of his actions.

"As an organization, we don't condone that type of activity," Kupchak said. "He could get injured, he could injure someone else."

The NBA also suspended Miller for one game for committing the flagrant foul that led to the fight. Bulls forward Charles Oakley was suspended for two games -- one for accumulating too many flagrant foul points; the other for his simultaneous flagrant foul against O'Neal.

Oakley was fined $10,000, and Miller $7,500.

Miller and Oakley fouled O'Neal hard as he received the ball in the low post with 2:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. O'Neal immediately went after Miller with his fists, leading to a wild melee in front of the Chicago bench.

Miller and Oakley committed several hard fouls against O'Neal earlier in the game.

"I saw it coming from the start of the game; it was pretty physical," Kobe Bryant said following the shootaround -- several hours before scoring a career-high 56 points against the Grizzlies despite sitting out the fourth quarter.

Bryant said O'Neal warned Miller to stop the banging or he'd retaliate. And that's what happened.

"He definitely gave him fair warning," Bryant said. "I told the refs, 'You have to clean this up or somebody's going to get hurt out there, it's going to get ugly.' They said, 'OK, we'll do the best we can.'

"There's only so much a person can take as far as physical abuse. I'm not saying fighting is an option, it's a last resort. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do."

This is the second suspension for an on-court altercation in O'Neal's career. Early in the 1997-98 season, he was suspended one game for slapping Utah center Greg Ostertag following a morning shootaround.

"Shaq feels embarrassed about it, I'm sure," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "(But) the nature of a man is to defend himself. He told me he was sorry it happened and he would keep it under control. I told him I don't condone what he did, he hurt the team.

"For a guy that didn't get a punch connected, I never saw a punch landed, it was pretty extreme," Jackson said of the suspension. "(But) we're not going to complain. I think we'll accept this and say it's fair."

Jackson also said O'Neal, who recently spent five games on the injured list because of a pain caused by an arthritic right big toe and a sore left little toe, accepted the suspension.

Asked if his sore feet was a factor in what happened, Jackson replied: "That's a possibility, but it's really not an excuse."

Like many NBA players have done, Oakley and Miller justified the hard fouls by saying O'Neal is so strong that he can repel anything less than a hard foul and still manage to get his shot off.

Other NBA players have used the same strategy throughout O'Neal's career, in part to take advantage of his poor free-throw shooting.

"The league made its decision, and obviously we respect the decision," Bulls general manager Jerry Krause said. "We don't think our players are dirty players."

NBA vice president Stu Jackson, who issued the suspension, would not comment.

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