Author: Shaquille O’Neal’s father abused him as a child

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Through all the entertaining anecdotes in the new Shaquille O’Neal book about his clashes with Kobe Bryant (and Pat Riley and LeBron James and Big Baby and…) there is another, darker episode.

There is Shaq’s upbringing, and how his father physically and mentally abused him. Like punching him in the face out of the blue abusive.

Phillip Harrison, Shaq’s military-member father, crossed the line from raising a tough child to abuse, according to Jackie MacMullan, who wrote the book with Shaq. And he crossed it a lot, she said.

Here is what MacMullan told Jason Whitlock on a FoxSports.com podcast (transcribed by Eye on Basketball).

“It gets lost in the shuffle because people want to talk about Kobe, Pat Riley, and LeBron and all these other famous people, but another fascinating part of this book is his father. ‘Sarge,’ Phillip Harrison, who, frankly, abused him all the way through his life. Physically abused him, beat the living daylights out of him at every turn…

“We’re not talking about spanking. We’re talking about a belt. Beating him badly. Something that disturbed his mother greatly. Of course, Shaq’s mom and his dad aren’t together any more. I think that’s in part why. Sarge was a military guy, that’s how his father raised him, and that’s how he was going to raise his son. I don’t think he thinks there’s anything wrong with it still. Shaq understands it, his dad was ‘trying to help’ him. He believed his dad had the best intentions, so Shaq gives him a pass on it. As a reader, you can’t help but go, ‘Wow, this is tough, this is over the top.’….

“His father came home from work one night, Shaq is sitting there, he punches Shaq in the face. Shaq says, ‘Well, what’s that for?’ [Harrison] said, ‘We’re going to see this guy play basketball. We’re going to see him play tonight. He plays in the NBA. You’re messing around, you’re goofing around, you’re not serious about your game. This guy makes $15 million and he can’t play at all. And we’re going to go see him.’ Punches him again and takes him to go see Jon Koncak play basketball and says, ‘See, if you applied yourself, you could be in the NBA making $15 million.’ You can say that’s a good story, it makes my skin go pale, and I’m pretty pale to begin with.”

As a father, it makes me angry. I get how challenging it can be to motivate children, I get how hard it can be to get them to listen, be structured and follow rules. They’re kids, they want to push you at every turn. But there is a line that cannot be crossed. Not in a civil society.

It should be noted that Shaq says his father made him the man he became and Shaq loves his father dearly. Shaq praises his dad throughout the book.

Shaq also said in the book he would never treat his own kids the same way. Let’s hope that is true. Let’s hope he has ended the cycle of abuse. If so, he deserves a lot of credit.

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan finally buried the hatchet

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Deron Williams or Chris Paul? That was the conversation in the NBA just a decade ago, a conversation that now seems practically ridiculous. I never personally thought it was very close between the two, being an adamant Paul supporter. Now, CP3 is with the Houston Rockets and Williams is out of the league, despite Paul being just 200 days younger than the former Utah Jazz star (but having played more games).

Williams was part of a two-man attack, along with Carlos Boozer, that helped fuel the Jazz during the first decade of this century as they churned through the Western Conference. But Williams played just five-and-a-half seasons in Salt Lake City, traded after a blow-up with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Things were unsteady between the two during the 2010-11 season, and Sloan famously decided to retire after a game in February of 2011 in which the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls. During halftime of that game, there was a disagreement between Sloan and Williams that apparently pushed the legendary head coach to his tipping point.

Sloan retired and Williams was traded on February 23rd.

Now, it appears that the two have at least made amends. In a story of appearing on UtahJazz.com, Williams recently went to Sloan’s house to talk about the divide between the two and what happened some seven years ago.

Via UtahJazz.com:

“He doesn’t forget a lot of things, instances where I pissed him off, things I did to upset him,” Williams said. “He definitely told me about that—and rightfully so. He was great about some other things. It was kind of typical Coach Sloan, really. If you know him, he’s never been one to shy away from telling you the truth and how he feels.”

“Eventually, I think Jerry came around,” [Jazz CEO Greg] Miller said. “He never really said, ‘Let’s put it behind us’ or anything, but maybe in Sloan speak he did.”

“Two strong men said what they needed to say, shook hands and are now moving forward,” [Jazz president Steve] Starks said.

Sloan, 76, is living with Parkinson’s and reportedly not in the best of health. It’s good to hear that Williams was remorseful about how he acted, and that the two great sportsmen were able to come together and at least see each other’s point of view as a sort of armistice.

Masai Ujiri on Kawhi Leonard: ‘He is happy. There is no maintenance with him’

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No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.

According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.

Via Sportsnet:

“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”

“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.

The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.

Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.

Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.