Shaquille O'Neal Heat

Shaq’s interesting interpretation of his final days in Miami

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The feeling of the people in Miami about Shaquille O’Neal and his book may best be summed up by a tweet from Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel:

There is the truth and then there is Shaq’s spin on his Heat departure.

But Shaq’s spin makes for an entertaining read. The chapter of his new book — Shaq Uncut: My Story — that deals with his final days with the Heat was published on ESPN over the weekend.

As we detailed before, Shaq says his ticket out of Miami was punched when he stood up to Pat Riley for being too hard on the team. Specifically, Riley threw Jason Williams out of practice for being “10 seconds late” and that Shaq had enough. As Shaq tells it, he and Riley did not get along and after that incident they almost came to blows. Soon after the Heat were shopping him around.

When he traded me, Pat denied we were having any problems. He told the media, “I loved Shaq when I got him and I love him today.”

He didn’t mean it. He hated the way I called him out. He didn’t like to be challenged. I’m sure he thought I was trying to destroy the culture he created. He was probably right. I thought his “culture” needed some tweaking.

Winderman recounts a different telling after the Shaq trade, when Heat owner Micky Arison spoke about how things went down.

Foremost, in the wake of the unloading of O’Neal, Arison spoke of the center’s push for a trade dating to December 2007, with the Dallas Mavericks the object of the center’s affections at the time….

Amid that unease, O’Neal’s Heat teammates at the time told stories of how the massive center would engage in horseplay in the locker room prior to games only to tell the team’s training staff he was physically unable to play.

Did free spirit Shaq and harda** Pat Riley have a clash of styles? You bet. But just be careful buying the idea that Shaq was the good guy in all this. Shaq was Shaq, and any time he ran into a culture that really pushed him to better use his talents (Kobe Bryant, for example) he pushed against it.

Still, Shaq makes a good read.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.