Riley suggests Shaq should be given All-Star role; O'Neal disagrees
It was from O'Neal himself.
"As the general of this squad, I wouldn't deserve to be an All-Star," O'Neal said Friday evening. "And if they gave me the spot, I wouldn't take it, because I don't want to be given anything."
So with that, O'Neal's record-tying streak of 14 consecutive All-Star selections ends.
He wasn't voted by fans as an Eastern Conference starter last week, and when the coaches' votes for reserves for the Feb. 17 game were released Thursday, O'Neal wasn't on that list either.
Still, Riley didn't sound so willing to abandon the O'Neal All-Star quest earlier Friday, when he said his center merited a role in New Orleans and that commissioner David Stern should have the option of adding someone to the roster when the situation is warranted.
"I really think that the 12 most deserving players should get it. I do," Riley said. "The most deserving should get it and I think the commissioner should always have the right, for somebody who has done so much for the league, for whatever reason, to add a 13th guy to come and be part of the whole thing."
O'Neal was flattered. But his mind is made up.
"I appreciate my coach for sticking up for me, but I don't want to be handed anything," said O'Neal, whose run of 14 straight selections matched Jerry West and Karl Malone as the most in NBA history.
O'Neal is still headed to New Orleans.
The former LSU center, who championed a number of charity efforts after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, is expected to host at least two parties and appear at several other events.
"He's going to be part of the All-Star festivities specifically to raise money," Riley said. "So I would think the NBA should give him a role. A role. Just like they bring a lot of veteran players in that have retired, they're always around, I think he should have a major role in something."
O'Neal is averaging 14.2 points this season, a career low, and is currently sidelined by injuries to his hip and thigh.
"When I get healthy, I'll be back," O'Neal said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on being 1,000 percent. I haven't been 1,000 percent in four or five years. I've been given orders to get 1,000 percent healthy."
Orlando's Dwight Howard won by a wide margin in the fan balloting for the East's starting center, and O'Neal believes fans made the right choice.
"Congratulations to Dwight Howard and congratulations to all the other guys that they voted in, put in," O'Neal said. "But I'm having troubles, and it wouldn't be fair to my teammates for me to try to get ready to play in the All-Star Game if I did get in."
In the coaches' poll for the reserve spots, there was no true backup center selected.
Toronto's Chris Bosh, a forward, likely will wind up being the de facto backup center in the game that usually becomes a freewheeling offensive showcase anyway.
"It could have went a lot of different ways," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who was voted in as a starter by the fans. "I was actually surprised there were no centers selected at all, more so than Shaq not being selected."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press