Layup line: Shaq to TNT
Get ready for the Big Analyzer, Big Commentator, or whatever other nickname he takes in the next phase of his career. O'Neal agreed Thursday to a multiyear deal with Turner Sports to become an analyst on its NBA coverage, where he will fold his 7-foot-1 frame into the fourth chair on the TNT set alongside Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
"I'm just going to try to make it more fun than it already is," O'Neal said during a conference call.
O'Neal also will contribute to NBA TV and NBA.com, and his agreement includes a development deal with Turner's entertainment and animation networks. O'Neal said he had other offers upon retiring last month, but quickly chose the Turner offer, saying he wasn't interested in creating a bidding war for his services.
* 5-ON-5: C's PAST SECOND ROUND?: In ESPN.com's latest edition of 5-on-5, panelists weigh in with how confident they are on certain topics. One of the questions asks whether the Celtics and Lakers will make it out of the second round of the playoffs next season. A sampling of the responses, starting with confidence in each team, ranked on a scale of 1-10:
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: Lakers 7, Celtics 5. The Lakers still will be one of the four best teams in the West no matter what they do or don't do in terms of changing their roster. The Celtics aren't getting old -- they are old. Their depth isn't what it used to be, and they are one Rajon Rondo injury from being a mediocre team.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Lakers 3, Celtics 3. They each have an outside shot, but I don't see it happening. Both franchises have been stellar the past few season, and both hit a wall in the 2011 playoffs. With Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City on the rise, L.A. and Boston have some moves to make before we can consider them serious contenders again.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Lakers 6, Celtics 8. It may be the Celtics homer in me, but there is too much pride, urgency and talent remaining on the roster to fall short of one final deep playoff run. The same goes for the Lakers -- but a lack of faith in Mike Brown's coaching abilities knocks this number down a couple of notches.
* LOCKED OUT FROM COACH CONTACT: And here's the latest example of how ridiculous this lockout is: Old friend Tony Allen noted how he's in Orlando Thursday and couldn't even drop a line to his former coach, Doc Rivers, because of NBA rules prohibiting contact between players and coaches until a new collective bargaining agreement is achieved:
Play Podcast ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter covers Rob Gronkowski's latest forearm surgery, the possibility of a new league schedule, Super Bowls L and LI, Charles Woodson and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose talks about big wins for the Bruins and Sharks on Thursday night and compares the end of Wayne Gretzky's career to the end of Michael Jordan's career.
Play Podcast Adnan Virk and Chris Broussard discuss another surgery on Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm and wonder if Gronkowski's inability to heal from this injury is a red flag for the rest of Gronkowski's career.