Shaq: The brilliant buffoon

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Shaquille O’Neal is officially listed at 7’1”, 315 lbs.(Beefy!). But he brings with him a much bigger personality. Shaq has made a career out of not only thundering dunks but bombastic comments. Prolific nicknames, battle raps, and your run of the mill trash talk from O’Neal has filled column inches (and blog posts) for 15 years.

But even though O’Neal has often said things that seemed unnecessary and later made him look the fool in retrospect, he’s still managed to have a long, dominant, and successful career not only on the floor but off it. He’s appeared in movies, commercials, television, the works. He’s instantly recognizable, and has made it known he wants to be involved in business when his playing days are over.

Which is why his interview with the Orlando Sentinel today is of note. He spoke with Shannon Owens and basically admitted that all the rivalries he’s fostered were simply, “marketing.” Specifically he noted that “I know what I’m doing when it comes to selling out games.”

What we should take from this has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant nor how certain body parts of his taste. It does have to do with his self-awareness, and that has to do with his role on the Celtics.

A lot of players that run their mouth do so because they don’t know better. This is why they are so often termed “knuckleheads.” But Shaq does know better. He’s an intelligent guy that understands not only how the game works, but the big picture. His ability to manipulate the press for his own gain and still walk away immensely popular is evidence of this, as is his career which doesn’t posses any gigantic in-game gaffes.

It’s this self-awareness that will prevent him from those blow-ups which many might be anticipating. He has consistently maintained that he is an impact player, and certainly his ego is considerable, but he’s also talked about history and how all players eventually become role players. That self-awareness will help keep him quiet if he gets only five touches and the Celtics lose. He’ll likely still give the reporters what they need for headlines, but he has perspective.

This isn’t to say that O’Neal’s bombast hasn’t submarined teams before. The Heat saw a bad situation get worse when he lost interest as they started losing. The Suns had great chemistry until he decided to start mouthing off, and you saw the bounce back last year. And of course, there’s that whole matter of the Lakers and a dynasty that got shredded as he unraveled with Kobe.

But those were all when O’Neal wasn’t facing the now inescapable reality of his age, and when he wasn’t watching the ending of his own career. Now that he’s reached that point, his talk of not disrupting the locker room and understanding his role may be more than just pillow talk.

It’ll just be extremely loud talk.

Thunder pick up Paul George in his return to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left, but George got a steal then hit a couple free throws.

The Pacers’ winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer’s blockbuster trade, didn’t go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn’t have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists.

The result: Both teams struggled.

Indiana led 27-22 after one but gave the lead right back by allowing Oklahoma City to start the second quarter on a 9-0 spurt.

After the Pacers answered with a 9-0 run, the Thunder closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to make it 51-46.

The trend continued in the second half.

Indiana charged back to take a 63-59 lead before the Thunder used an 11-2 run to pull out to a 73-69 lead going into the fourth.

Oklahoma City extended the lead to 92-81 with 5:16 to go but only scored six points the rest of the way. That was just enough to hold on.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. … Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. … Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. … Made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. … Center Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. … Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He’s in town for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.

ALL-STAR DAY

The Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.

A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.

The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league’s New York headquarters in an IndyCar.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.

Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.