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O'Neal quashes reports he's ready to retire after 2008

Shaquille O'Neal on Thursday denied speculation that he planned to walk away from the Heat after 2008, telling ESPN Radio's Jack Ramsay that he will play out his contract despite his current injury-riddled year.

O'Neal suffered an acute hip injury while diving for a loose ball against Utah on Dec. 22 and re-aggravated the injury Monday against Cleveland. He will miss at least six games, barring a change in the rehabilitation schedule.

In the interview Thursday, O'Neal strongly disputed media reports this month that reportedly characterized the All-Star center as being prepared to walk away from the last two years of his five-year, $100 million contract.

"I'm the son of an army drill sergeant and when we enlist, we go out full-term. So I got two years left on my term and then, after that, I'll be looking to do other things," O'Neal said on the show.

"I'm not the type to say every game, 'my leg is hurt, my leg is hurt.' I just tried to do it the old-school way for so long, just play on ... rather than try to get healthy," he added. "I'm not even playing at 50 percent right now. I just got to focus on getting that leg back strong."

When asked if he could get back into form this season, O'Neal said: "We're going to be trying to do it. I just have to get through it."

O'Neal has missed an average of 20 games over the past six seasons because of an array of injuries. The earliest he could return from the current injury, under the timetable released by the team, is Feb. 6 at Detroit.

He's averaging a career-low 14.2 points this season, and his string of 14 straight All-Star Game selections -- which matches a league record -- almost seems certain to end because of his latest malady.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.