Shaq blames exit from Lakers on Kupchak. He’s just wrong.


So far, the excerpts from Shaquille O’Neal’s book (“Shaq Uncut: My Story“) that have gone public have been amusing and opinionated, if a bit loose with the truth.

But this latest bit about his exit from the Los Angeles Lakers could not have missed the mark more.

It comes from Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Times Lakers’ blog.

According to the book, Kupchak promised to grant Shaq a contract extension following the 2003-04 season and not to discuss their contract negotiations publicly. Once the 2003-04 season ended, however, O’Neal was disturbed by an apparent interview in which Kupchak revealed the Lakers’ plan to hold onto Bryant while keeping their options open with O’Neal.

“That was it. That was the end of me in a Lakers uniform. Mitch broke our agreement. How could I trust him again?” Shaq writes in the book. “For months, I kept waiting for Mitch to come to me and say, ‘Shaq, you’re getting older, we need some new players. Mr. Buss doesn’t want to pay you and Kobe doesn’t want you here.’ But that conversation never happened. So that was when I demanded a trade. I couldn’t trust Mitch anymore and it was clear Kobe was now the one with all the power.”

Shaq has to realize that owner Jerry Buss made the call to trade Shaq and Kupchak was the guy forced to execute the deal then take a lot of pubic heat from Lakers fans for it, right? Kupchak had about as much to do with this decision as he did with the decision to invade Iraq.

If Shaq wants to blame someone for his exit from the Lakers, he can blame himself for running up the court in a preseason game in Hawaii that season yelling “pay me” at Buss. That was the day the cord started to be cut. Kupchak may have said he would do all those things for Shaq, but the decision was ultimately taken out of his hands. Kupchak, ever the good soldier, would never throw his boss under the bus (so to speak) for that.

Not that the Lakers or Buss really had much of a choice. Kobe Bryant was not going to play with Shaq anymore, he would have left as a free agent if Shaq wasn’t traded. So the Lakers had to choose between a 32-year-old Shaq who had a questionable work ethic or a 26-year-old Kobe about to enter his prime. It wasn’t a popular move with fans — Shaq was better liked — but there was only one basketball decision to make.

But among all the people Shaq can blame for his departure from Los Angeles (to Miami, where he won another ring with Dwyane Wade), Kupchak is about the last guy he should.

D’Antoni says Rockets’ Patrick Beverley to miss about 20 games

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets walks to the bench during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Patrick Beverley is going to have a key role with the Rockets — he is their best defending guard. And it’s not close. He can help space the floor as a three-point shooter, he can work off the ball on offense and serve as a backup playmaker, but mostly what he brings is fearless, physical defense.

Except he’s not going to bring it for a while.

Following rumors he might knee surgery comes this from Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he expects guard Pat Beverley to miss at least 20 games with a left knee injury. His absence “complicates” some roster spots.

The Rockets are going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA but whether they finish fourth or seventh or out of the playoffs completely in the West will come down to a combination of health and how well they defend. This is a setback on both counts.

Expect to see more Eric Gordon, Tyler Ennis, and P.J. Hairston. Gordon has a real chance here. This is going to be an interesting year in Houston.

Jimmy Butler shrugs off idea he’s a “diva”

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler goes up for a dunk past Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.

But the drama isn’t gone yet.

On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.

“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.

“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’

Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.

What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.

Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.

Spurs Danny Green has strained quadricep, out three weeks

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: Fans celebrate a three with Danny Green #14 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The Spurs are counting on Danny Green to regain his top-flight “3&D” form this season and give them another defender and weapon when they go up against that potential juggernaut out West. And the Clippers, too.

But that comeback is getting off to a slow start, the team announced Friday.

This likely means a little more run for Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin to start the season, plus some funky lineups from Gregg Popovich.

Green played great defense last season but struggled from three (where 60 percent of his attempts are taken). Green shot 33.2 percent from deep on the season, which is well below his career average of 40.3 percent (and last year’s down numbers were buoyed by a red-hot January, he was much worse the rest of the season).

It’s something for Spurs fans to monitor, they need to get his legs right before his shot can return.

PBT Extra: Who wins MVP, other NBA end-of-season awards?

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The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.

Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.

In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.