TAMPA - It was 7:47 p.m. when the St. Pete Times Forum announcer proclaimed the arrival of the Heat for warmups before its preseason game against the Magic.
Well, most of the Heat anyway.
It took 21 minutes for the rest of the Heat, namely the only player the 20,454 fans who packed the Times Forum really wanted to see, to make his appearance.
Unfortunately for them, especially those who paid as much as $250 for a seat along the court, Shaquille O'Neal wore a cobalt blue outfit instead of a white and red Heat jersey the rest of his team displayed.
The cause of his late scratch from the Heat's second preseason game was a sore left hamstring. And for the record, Michael Doleac started at center for Miami in a 95-89 win.
Former Gator Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade scored 18. Orlando was led by Steve Francis and rookies Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, who scored 17 each. Grant Hill continued his comeback from ankle problems with eight points and one assist in 29 minutes.
But all that mattered to the fans, many wearing Shaq jerseys from his days with the Magic and Lakers, was he spent the game on the far end of the bench as opposed to inside the paint.
"I've followed him since he was in Orlando," said Jeryl Tidwell, who drove from Clearwater to sit in a $245 seat and wore an O'Neal Heat jersey. "I just wanted to see him on the court. It's very disappointing, but I'm still glad to be here."
Next to her was Ellan Hubbard from New Port Richey, attending her first NBA game simply because Shaq was scheduled to play.
"I've heard so much about him, and now I'm not going to get to see him," Hubbard said. "It's a little disappointing. At least I'm at a game with good seats, though."
Being only the second preseason game, O'Neal said he postponed his first game in Florida since joining the Heat on July 14 because he didn't want to further aggravate his hamstring.
"I'm good ... being cautious," he said.
Friday's disappointment was just the most recent episode in a lousy history between O'Neal and Tampa.
In 2000, O'Neal's Mercedes was stolen from a Town 'N Country auto electronics store. And two years ago, he failed to show up for a charity basketball game at the Times Forum. In that instance, O'Neal said he never authorized the use of his name in conjunction with the event and spent the weekend in an Orlando hospital.
Raptors star receives boos, cheers in opener
TORONTO - Vince Carter scored 15 in his first game since demanding to be traded, as the Raptors lost their preseason opener to the 76ers 99-97.
Carter, a five-time All-Star, was greeted with boos and cheers after being introduced, a mixed reaction from the crowd of 13,370.
"Who cares, man? Next question, next question," Carter said. "I have nothing to say about that. You can ask me until I'm blue in the face. I've got nothing to say."
Carter asked to be traded during the summer but has promised to play hard as long as he is with the Raptors. Fans cheered when he made the first shot of the game, a 17-foot jumper.
BLAZERS: Authorities again searched the home of forward Qyntel Woods, seeking evidence of dog fighting. Woods' home was first searched Monday after allegations that Woods abandoned his pit bull because it would not fight for him. No charges have been filed. Woods was suspended without pay by Portland pending a team investigation.
CLIPPERS: Point guard Marko Jaric practiced for the first time during camp. The Serb missed the Olympics to rehab a broken foot before breaking his left thumb last month during a pickup game.
Jaric, who wore a splint on the thumb, said he felt rusty and "a little bit lost." He will sit out tonight's preseason game, have his thumb re-examined Wednesday and hopes to play Thursday.
HAWKS: Forward Chris Crawford had an MRI on his right knee, but the team said results won't be known until today. Crawford was fouled by Kevin Garnett with 3:16 left in the third quarter Thursday when he tried to convert a steal into a basket.
PACERS: First-round pick David Harrison sprained his right shoulder during practice and will not play tonight. The center was injured while dunking but said he did not believe it was serious. Also, Ron Artest will make his preseason debut tonight after missing a game for his grandmother's funeral.