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.