We’re going to miss Shaquille O’Neal.
Not the Shaq of this season, or even the last several. Not the guy who has played just 17 minutes since Feb. 1 because even that little time aggravates his leg injuries. That is a shell of the former player, a guy who at his peak was one of the greatest big men ever to play the game.
But the fact he is in so much pain leads one to think he may walk away after this season. Shaq has said he wanted to play one more season, at age 40, and he has a $1.4 million player option for next season. It’s his call. And as a personality it would be hard for him to walk away from the camaraderie of the locker room.
But the fact he can barely walk after 12 minutes of playoff action over two games means he may walk away after all.
And whenever he does walk away, we need to remember the Shaq of a decade and more ago. The guy who had four rings, three finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP trophy. The guy who is a career 58.2 percent shooter. The guy with the third-highest career PER of all time (Michael Jordan and LeBron James, to answer your next question).
Shaq is the guy who built the Magic into a successful franchise, bringing the game and personality to excite a young expansion market. He cemented his legacy as one of the greats in a Lakers uniform that has been worn by so many of the game’s greatest big men. He came to Miami when it was common for them to put tarps over full sections at the top of the arena and both sold the building out and won another ring with Dwyane Wade.
Shaq was as much a personality as a player, generating headlines off the court as much as on it. His feud with Kobe is the stuff of legend. He had a massive Twitter following before half the mainstream media figured out what Twitter was. You’ll remember him for dancing with the Jabbawockeez.
He should be remembered for all of it. Not this exit.
Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:
Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game — but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.
In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.
Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.
That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.
If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.
First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.
Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.
Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.
Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.
Joakim Noah is playing 20.6 minutes a night coming off the bench for Fred Hoiberg and the Chicago Bulls this season.
And he doesn’t like it. He wants more run. He was getting 10 minutes more a night last season under Tom Thibodeau, and Noah wants some of those minutes back. Nick Friedel of ESPN sent out a tweet that was a reminder of just that.
Three thoughts here.
1) Reducing minutes for guys who battle injuries every season by the time the playoffs roll around was one huge reason Fred Hoiberg was brought in to coach the Bulls and Tom Thibodeau was shown the door. This isn’t just Hoiberg, the minutes reduction comes from management. While it is possible Noah’s spot in the rotation shifts (he could start at some point) and he might get a little more run, the Thibodeau era is gone.
2) There are legit reasons for Noah to want to play. First, he is a competitor who doesn’t like sitting. Second, the Bulls’ defense is elite when he plays (allowing 95.5 points per 100 possessions) and the Bulls outscore opponents by 1.3 per 100 when he plays. Finally, Noah is in the final year of his contract and scoring just 3.1 points per game is not going to help him earn more cash in the next deal.
3) Barring injury to another big, don’t expect a change.