Shaq goes out with a smile

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Shaquille O’Neal said goodbye to the NBA in the way we should all remember him, with a laugh and a smile.

He started his official retirement press conference — broadcast live on NBA TV — by somebody handing him a cell phone, saying a few words, then telling the media it was the Knicks asking if he would come up and interview for the Knicks job.

He was smiling and laughing the whole time, talking about his 19 years in the league, four rings and certain Hall of Fame credentials. He was comfortable discussing it all.

He sounded like a man who could walk away from the game because he had somewhere to walk to.

Shaq said his competitive fire had him wanting to come back, but the only way was surgery and a nine-month (at least) rehab. Which even if he had the surgery now might mean a post All-Star game return at best. While Shaq had the second year option on his contract, he said he could not do that to the Celtics.

“I didn’t want to let that happen what happened last year,” Shaq said of the Celtics waiting on his return.

But after that it was all about having fun. He joked about missing shooting free throws. He joked about his nicknames.

“In light of today, I am retiring all my nicknames. The Big Aristotle, Shaq-Fu, The Big Shamrock, The Big Cactus, The Diesel, and finally, the one and only, original, never to be duplicated or replicated Superman,” he said. “From now on, you can call me The Big AARP — Association for the Advancements of Retired Persons.”

There was a huge spread of food and he wanted to hang out and just talk with friends in the media. Even after he joked about having wanted to smack Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless around. (I think we’ve all felt that way at times.)

Shaq laughed off the idea he might coach.

“The only people I’ll coach are my three sons,” he said. “I’ve been coaching the last three summers and I am the Phil Jackson of little league around here. I’m like 36-0.”

Shaq laughed about a lot of things. He was having fun with this. But he had his serious moments too, talking about his parents and his desire to be a good father.

Shaq talked about his legacy, admitting he could have gotten more out of his talents but adding that in the end his name was mentioned in sentences with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain and that’s all he could ask.

He also threw down the gauntlet to Dwight Howard, saying he was the only dominant center left and he would be “disappointed” if Howard didn’t have three or four rings someday.

He talked about leaving Orlando.

“Businesswise I had a better offer in Los Angeles, at the time they didn’t match it,” Shaq said. “I didn’t want to go back and forth… Plus a lot of other selfish reasons, movies and stuff like that that I thought was best for me.”

In the end, the press conference was a lot like Shaq — memorable and fun. And that’s a good legacy to have.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.