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.

Draymond Green goes down, Rockets rally to spoil Warriors ring night 122-121

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Draymond Green is not the best player on the Warriors. He’s third or fourth best, depending on what you think of him vs. Klay Thompson.

But Draymond Green is the most important Warrior — what they do defensively does not work without him (and their small ball playmaking suffers as well). Without him, they are not the same.

That was on full display Tuesday night in the season opener — the night the Warriors got their 31-diamond rings and the latest banner went up at Oracle Arena. Green tweaked his knee in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth, and that’s when the Rockets outscored the Warriors 34-20 to come from behind and steal a win, 122-121.

Kevin Durant almost saved the day for Golden State with a baseline jumper as time expired — the referees called it good, but an official review showed the ball was still in his hands when the buzzer went off.

James Harden had 27 points and 10 assists to lead the Rockets. However, the real story was their revamped bench outplaying the Golden State bench — Eric Gordon looked like the sixth man of the year with 24 points, P.J. Tucker had 20 and shot 4-of-6 from three, and Luc Mbah a Moute added 14.

The Rockets made their final push in this one with Chris Paul sitting on the bench. CP3 sat the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game, and the Rockets thrived with Gordon, Harden and an old-school (meaning, like last season) offense. After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni said that Paul was out there “playing on one leg” due to his knee problem, and Paul could miss more time.

Golden State was also without Andre Iguodala, who tweaked his back lifting weights over the weekend, according to coach Steve Kerr. Not having Green or Iguodala hurt the Warriors defense, especially against an elite offensive team.

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

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With Draymond Green sidelined after tweaking his knee in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets were able to make a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and upset the Golden State.

But Kevin Durant almost saved the game for the Warriors.

Down one with 10 seconds to go, the Warriors were able to get Stephen Curry a good look at a three but he missed it. The ball was volleyballed around a little, and Durant got a hold of it and took a 15-footer along the baseline that the referees on the court ruled a game-winner — but when reviewed it left his hand a fraction of a second too late.

It was the right call. And this is a big boost for the Rockets as they try to find their identity going into a long season.

 

The Warriors’ championship rings have 31 diamonds in them (VIDEO)

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Tuesday night meant the return of NBA basketball, and of course what we all wanted to see: the Golden State Warriors.

In the second game of the evening, the Warriors squared off against the Houston Rockets. Before the teams tipped, the Warriors received their championship rings in front of their hometown crowd at Oracle Arena.

Wearing special Nike hoodies with the phrase “The Champions” on the back, the Warriors received their rings to a standing ovation.

Perhaps the best part of the ceremony was finding out the official gemstone count in the rings. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, the rings have 31 diamonds in them.

Via Twitter:

Hmm. 31.

3-1.

3-1 lead.

Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

Report: Cavaliers ditched Kyrie Irving tribute video idea vs. Celtics

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It was the first game for Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving back in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Irving spent the first six years of his career in Cleveland before being traded to the Celtics over the summer.

Of course, there was no love lost between the two teams nor between Cavaliers fans and Irving. Boston won the opening tip which Irving gathered, prompting a round of boos from the audience at The Q.

Perhaps more interesting was that the Cavaliers had a tribute video lined up for Irving but decided not to run it.

According to multiple reports, the video was set to run during a floating point in the game, but the operations folks in Cleveland never found the right time.

Another report from Cleveland.com has said that the aforementioned video had set off a few Cavaliers players.

Via Cleveland.com:

According to team spokesman Tad Carper, multiple Cavs officials, including majority owner Dan Gilbert, chose not to show the video because “we were expecting to run it at a floating opportunity based on the right moment, and we felt that moment never presented itself.”

Carper said the decision to cancel the video was not “directly” tied to the gruesome ankle injury to Celtics guard Gordon Hayward with 6:50 left in the first quarter, either.

A source with direct knowledge of Cavs’ players thinking told cleveland.com that several inside the Cleveland locker room were upset Monday upon hearing that a video was planned.

The video would have upset some inside the Cleveland locker room? I wonder which ones.