Shaq: The brilliant buffoon

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Shaquille O’Neal is officially listed at 7’1”, 315 lbs.(Beefy!). But he brings with him a much bigger personality. Shaq has made a career out of not only thundering dunks but bombastic comments. Prolific nicknames, battle raps, and your run of the mill trash talk from O’Neal has filled column inches (and blog posts) for 15 years.

But even though O’Neal has often said things that seemed unnecessary and later made him look the fool in retrospect, he’s still managed to have a long, dominant, and successful career not only on the floor but off it. He’s appeared in movies, commercials, television, the works. He’s instantly recognizable, and has made it known he wants to be involved in business when his playing days are over.

Which is why his interview with the Orlando Sentinel today is of note. He spoke with Shannon Owens and basically admitted that all the rivalries he’s fostered were simply, “marketing.” Specifically he noted that “I know what I’m doing when it comes to selling out games.”

What we should take from this has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant nor how certain body parts of his taste. It does have to do with his self-awareness, and that has to do with his role on the Celtics.

A lot of players that run their mouth do so because they don’t know better. This is why they are so often termed “knuckleheads.” But Shaq does know better. He’s an intelligent guy that understands not only how the game works, but the big picture. His ability to manipulate the press for his own gain and still walk away immensely popular is evidence of this, as is his career which doesn’t posses any gigantic in-game gaffes.

It’s this self-awareness that will prevent him from those blow-ups which many might be anticipating. He has consistently maintained that he is an impact player, and certainly his ego is considerable, but he’s also talked about history and how all players eventually become role players. That self-awareness will help keep him quiet if he gets only five touches and the Celtics lose. He’ll likely still give the reporters what they need for headlines, but he has perspective.

This isn’t to say that O’Neal’s bombast hasn’t submarined teams before. The Heat saw a bad situation get worse when he lost interest as they started losing. The Suns had great chemistry until he decided to start mouthing off, and you saw the bounce back last year. And of course, there’s that whole matter of the Lakers and a dynasty that got shredded as he unraveled with Kobe.

But those were all when O’Neal wasn’t facing the now inescapable reality of his age, and when he wasn’t watching the ending of his own career. Now that he’s reached that point, his talk of not disrupting the locker room and understanding his role may be more than just pillow talk.

It’ll just be extremely loud talk.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.