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SHAQ REPORTEDLY REFUSES TO PLAY FOR TIMBERWOLVES

Shaquille O'Neal reportedly has told the NBA he won't play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a newspaper reported Saturday.

O'Neal's agent, Leonard Armato, has sent a letter to the NBA and the Timberwolves saying O'Neal is prepared to sit out the season if drafted by Minnesota, a sports agent who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Orlando Sentinel.But neither O'Neal nor his agent could immediately be reached for comment, the Sentinel reported in Saturday's editions.

Officials for the NBA and the Timberwolves, who had the worst record in the NBA this past season, said Friday they hadn't heard of such a letter. Timberwolves' spokesman Bill Robertson said that if the team wins the lottery, they'll draft O'Neal.

O'Neal is expected to command an average salary of as much as $5 million per season. He has voiced a preference for the Los Angeles Lakers, but is expected to go to Minnesota, Orlando or the Dallas Mavericks.

Those three teams will have a higher chance of winning the NBA draft lottery May 17 because they finished with the worst regular-season records.

There would be no hesitation from Orlando Magic in taking O'Neal, Magic general manager Pat Williams told the Sentinel.

Williams also downplayed the importance of pre-draft statements concerning O'Neal.

"There is certainly an aura about him, but any comments being made about him now are just hype," Williams said. "It's amazing when you think about it. By no means is he a finished product yet. It's not like he won championships in college."