Shaq on Kobe: we 'need each other'

Updated: October 31, 2003, 9:40 PM ET
Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shaquille O'Neal ended his media boycott Friday, saying he and Kobe Bryant need each other and he's put the feud with his Los Angeles Lakers teammate behind him.

Shaquille O'Neal

Kobe Bryant

"It happens, it's over with, we just have to move on," O'Neal said before the Lakers flew to Phoenix for a game on Saturday night. "He's boisterous. I'm boisterous. I don't take anything personally."

O'Neal hadn't spoken with reporters since Sunday, when he said after practice that the Lakers were "my team," adding that Bryant needed to be more of a team player -- an observation based on two exhibition games last week.

O'Neal had sniped at Bryant several times previously during the preseason, who has been ordered to stand trial on a sexual assault charge in Colorado.

Bryant ripped into O'Neal during a telephone interview with ESPN on Monday, calling him "childlike," "unprofessional," "selfish," "fat" and "jealous."

It was the first overt sign of hostility between the superstars since midway through the 2000-01 season, when their simmering feud went public.

"We just have to move on and focus on what's good for the team," an upbeat O'Neal said after practice Friday. "I wasn't upset. If somebody's used to it, it's us. We know how to have a tough skin."

"In a marriage, if you keep talking about a problem the problem won't go away. It happened, we just have to move on. If you say something, a person can take things positively or negatively. We both took it negatively."

When asked if he felt comfortable with Bryant as a teammate, O'Neal replied: "Of course. I need him, he needs me, we need each other. He's the ying. I'm the yang. Opposites attract. We're just different. Off the court, he does his thing. Off the court, I do my thing."

O'Neal and Bryant led the Lakers to three straight championships from 2000-2002. They were eliminated last May by eventual champion San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.

Bryant said earlier in the week that he had put the feud behind him, but O'Neal refused comment until Friday.

Then, after beating teammate Karl Malone 3-1 in a 3-point shooting contest, instead of avoiding reporters as he left the court, he met them with a smile.

"I'm good, I'm cool today," he said.

Bryant spoke with reporters after sitting out Tuesday night's 109-93 season-opening victory because of soreness and weakness in his surgically repaired right knee and again Wednesday and Thursday, but didn't do so Friday.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he was "pretty optimistic" that Bryant would play against the Suns but a decision wouldn't be made until sometime Saturday.

"He does wear down," Jackson said. "We thought he tired less in this practice than he does in most of them. We'll make adjustments during the game as far as how much time he plays."

Regarding O'Neal, Jackson said: "He's in a good mood. He has been since Tuesday. Everything's been downhill for us."

Before the game against the Mavericks, Jackson described O'Neal's mood as somber. O'Neal had been somewhat hostile with the media in the days leading up to Friday, but was pleasant and clearly in good spirits during a five-minute interview session. "It's not as big as people think it is," Malone said about the O'Neal-Bryant matter. "Let's move on. We could talk about it all year. Let it die, it's over with."

Regarding the events of the last few days, Malone said: "It's been practice as usual -- guys getting after it. That's all we've been talking about."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press