Goodbye Shaq? Good riddance
The best reaction I've heard, anyway.
Said Joe: "I'm happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy."
Yes. He really dropped seven happys on me.
And two verys.
"No, we're not going to miss Shaq," Maloof said with a laugh. "I'm glad he's in the East. I'm very, very happy because I didn't want him going to Dallas."
It was widely believed that Dallas and Sacramento were the only teams in circulation that could actually meet all three prerequisites for completing a deal for O'Neal. Those were thought to be the only two clubs with enough talent to send the Lakers to make Kobe Bryant want to re-sign with L.A., enough leftover talent to make Shaq want to stay with his new team and an owner (or owners) willing to meet O'Neal's demands for a fat extension.
Turns out that consensus was wrong on a couple fronts. The Lakers, to a whole league's surprise, were willing to trade Shaq to Miami for A) not a single surefire All-Star and B) before getting a commitment from Kobe.
The other surprise? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was chasing Shaq right to the finish, but Sacramento's Maloof brothers decided they didn't want to decimate their whole team and then commit zillions to a 32-year-old center with shaky feet. The Maloofs doubt they can even afford to retain Vlade Divac, so serious is their desire to scale back payroll.
"We did look at (a Shaq trade)," Joe Maloof said. "But there was just no way we could make it work. We would have had only four people on our roster."
The consolation, Maloof says, is that the boost of credibility Shaq's return will give the Eastern Conference also "opens it up more for everybody in our conference."
It likewise means that the soap opera even Jerry Buss admits he follows "as much as all you guys" will never be the same.
Not that any of the Lakers' chief competitors in the West thought the drama stopped them from being dangerous.
"I'd have put up with all that to have Shaq on my team in the playoffs."
The first hint: Shaq informed the Lakers that he wouldn't change his mind even if Bryant did bolt for the Clippers ... and even if Buss reversed field and decided to sign him to a max-value extension.
The clincher: Shaq called a close friend of Rudy Tomjanovich's last week and told him to tell Rudy T not to take the L.A. job because "I won't be there."
Yet it somehow figures that when Utah finally makes a marquee signing, protests come in from all over the league.
Boozer's defection means the Cavs will have essentially traded their starting power forward for Kenny Natt, Cleveland's new assistant coach.
Which is a trade you wouldn't have made in Natt's prime.
Roughly this time a year ago, helicopters were buzzing all over San Antonio trying to track Kidd's every movement on a Spurs recruiting trip.
A year later, as various league sources continue to insist that Kidd is very much available on the trading block, San Antonio and Dallas and other clubs that were so hot for him then are telling us they can't afford to trade for him now, with six years left on Kidd's nine-figure contract and questions about his left knee.
Or is he privately lamenting the breakup of the one NBA team that could captivate folks who aren't necessarily hoop junkies?
"That's what I was hoping," said Pistons president Joe Dumars, a teammate of Aguirre's in '89.
Chuck Daly, the Pistons' coach back then, also endorses the Aguirre-'Sheed analogy.
"It's similar," Daly said. "I knew when they got Rasheed that that put them as No. 1 in the East. He gives you post defense. He gives you rebounding. He gives you post-up scoring. He can hit the 3-point shot. But the big thing that everybody missed is that he's a good teammate. He got all this criticism, and it turns out he's the biggest cheerleader they have."
Ever since we came out with that piece before the Finals anointing the Lakers as the NBA's new Greatest Franchise Ever, L.A. was nearly swept by Detroit ... and then promptly stopped being the Lakers.
First they ran off Phil Jackson. Now they've agreed to trade Shaq for a package that makes it look as though they panicked big-time.
The Celtics' 16-14 lead in championships suddenly looks a lot safer.