Shaq may never play in the NBA again. And that’s sad.

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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.

Hawks sign two-way Tyler Cavanaugh to standard contract

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ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who originally came to Atlanta on a two-way contract, has signed a multi-year deal with the Hawks.

Cavanaugh has averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19 games, including one start, since signing the two-way contract on Nov. 5.

Cavanaugh, from Syracuse, New York, played two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring to George Washington, where he averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. He was selected the National Invitation Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2016 after leading the Colonials to the NIT title.

 

Carlos Boozer announces retirement

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Carlos Boozer went from being known as a gritty second-rounder to an overpaid defensive liability.

In some ways, that’s the ultimate success story.

Now, after playing last season in China, he’s walking away.

Boozer on ESPN:

I’m officially retired.

The Cavaliers drafted Boozer with the No. 35 pick in the 2002. After he spent a couple productive seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs declined his cheap team option to make him a restricted free agent – with an agreement he’d re-sign at a reasonable rate if you ask them, with no handshake deal if you ask him.

Boozer bolted for the Jazz, who gave him a six-year, $68 million contract. He made a couple All-Star teams and helped Utah reach the conference finals.

Then, he went to Chicago on a five-year, $75 million contract after the Bulls struck out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010. The Derrick Rose-led Bulls never broke through, and Boozer was often the scapegoat.

Chicago amnestied him, and he spent his last NBA season with the Lakers three years ago.

Boozer was a pretty good player paid like a very good one, and that didn’t endear him. We mostly remember him for accidentally punching a referee below the belt:

Painting on hair:

And yelling “and one!” after nearly every shot.

For a while, it seemed the 36-year-old Boozer wanted to play another NBA season. But he finally could no longer find a front office eager to pay him.

It’s only fitting that he was denied that last “and one!”

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis still not talking off court

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful: