Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Goodbye Shaq? Good riddance
By Marc Stein
The best reaction to the Shaquille O'Neal deal comes from Sacramento Kings co-owner Joe Maloof.
The best reaction I've heard, anyway.
Said Joe: "I'm happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy."
Yes. He really dropped seven happys on me.
And two verys.
"No, we're not going to miss Shaq," Maloof said with a laugh. "I'm glad he's in the East. I'm very, very happy because I didn't want him going to Dallas."
It was widely believed that Dallas and Sacramento were the only teams in circulation that could actually meet all three prerequisites for completing a deal for O'Neal. Those were thought to be the only two clubs with enough talent to send the Lakers to make Kobe Bryant want to re-sign with L.A., enough leftover talent to make Shaq want to stay with his new team and an owner (or owners) willing to meet O'Neal's demands for a fat extension.
Turns out that consensus was wrong on a couple fronts. The Lakers, to a whole league's surprise, were willing to trade Shaq to Miami for A) not a single surefire All-Star and B) before getting a commitment from Kobe.
The other surprise? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was chasing Shaq right to the finish, but Sacramento's Maloof brothers decided they didn't want to decimate their whole team and then commit zillions to a 32-year-old center with shaky feet. The Maloofs doubt they can even afford to retain Vlade Divac, so serious is their desire to scale back payroll.
"We did look at (a Shaq trade)," Joe Maloof said. "But there was just no way we could make it work. We would have had only four people on our roster."
The consolation, Maloof says, is that the boost of credibility Shaq's return will give the Eastern Conference also "opens it up more for everybody in our conference."
Of course, it also means that great rivalries like Lakers vs. Kings just lost 350 pounds worth of spice.
It likewise means that the soap opera even Jerry Buss admits he follows "as much as all you guys" will never be the same.
Not that any of the Lakers' chief competitors in the West thought the drama stopped them from being dangerous.
"The media makes too much out of all that stuff," said Mavericks-ex Steve Nash, who Wednesday will officially rejoin the Phoenix Suns.
"I'd have put up with all that to have Shaq on my team in the playoffs."
When did the Lakers realize that they wouldn't be able to talk Shaq into rescinding his trade demand?
The first hint: Shaq informed the Lakers that he wouldn't change his mind even if Bryant did bolt for the Clippers ... and even if Buss reversed field and decided to sign him to a max-value extension.
The clincher: Shaq called a close friend of Rudy Tomjanovich's last week and told him to tell Rudy T not to take the L.A. job because "I won't be there."
For years and years and years, we've rapped the Jazz for not being able to attract free agents to Salt Lake City. Can't say so anymore.
Yet it somehow figures that when Utah finally makes a marquee signing, protests come in from all over the league.
Assuming that Carlos Boozer sticks to his (latest) promise and signs with the Jazz on Wednesday, you should know the other reason Cleveland is so mad, besides the whole controversy about who promised what.
Boozer's defection means the Cavs will have essentially traded their starting power forward for Kenny Natt, Cleveland's new assistant coach.
Which is a trade you wouldn't have made in Natt's prime.
|The Shaq trade couldn't have made Joe Maloof, left, and his brother Gavin any happier.|
This summer's What A Difference A Year Makes award goes to the Nets' Jason Kidd.
Roughly this time a year ago, helicopters were buzzing all over San Antonio trying to track Kidd's every movement on a Spurs recruiting trip.
A year later, as various league sources continue to insist that Kidd is very much available on the trading block, San Antonio and Dallas and other clubs that were so hot for him then are telling us they can't afford to trade for him now, with six years left on Kidd's nine-figure contract and questions about his left knee.
I wonder: Is Commissioner David Stern privately beaming because the Pistons' title and Shaq's forthcoming arrival in Miami will do a lot to hush folks after years of Leastern Conference jokes?
Or is he privately lamenting the breakup of the one NBA team that could captivate folks who aren't necessarily hoop junkies?
When the Pistons traded for Rasheed Wallace, the acquisition was quietly compared to Mark Aguirre's arrival halfway through the 1988-89 season, which helped Detroit win its first championship.
"That's what I was hoping," said Pistons president Joe Dumars, a teammate of Aguirre's in '89.
Chuck Daly, the Pistons' coach back then, also endorses the Aguirre-'Sheed analogy.
"It's similar," Daly said. "I knew when they got Rasheed that that put them as No. 1 in the East. He gives you post defense. He gives you rebounding. He gives you post-up scoring. He can hit the 3-point shot. But the big thing that everybody missed is that he's a good teammate. He got all this criticism, and it turns out he's the biggest cheerleader they have."
These are happy days in Boston, and not because Mark Blount is coming back.
Ever since we came out with that piece before the Finals anointing the Lakers as the NBA's new Greatest Franchise Ever, L.A. was nearly swept by Detroit ... and then promptly stopped being the Lakers.
First they ran off Phil Jackson. Now they've agreed to trade Shaq for a package that makes it look as though they panicked big-time.
The Celtics' 16-14 lead in championships suddenly looks a lot safer.
|Jason Kidd, left, was the talk of free agency last summer.|
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.