Center still wants trade from Lakers
Even if Mike Kryzewski is hired as the Lakers' next coach, Shaquille O'Neal still wants to be traded, a source close to O'Neal told ESPN's David Aldridge on Friday.
It's not because Shaq has anything against Coach K. Shaq simply sees his possible hiring as yet another slight, another concession the Lakers have made to Kobe Bryant without Shaq's consultation.
With the belief spreading that Krzyzewski is Bryant's hand-picked choice to replace Phil Jackson, Shaq may be even more determined to force a trade, insulted by the appearance of another player on his team being allowed to make all the decisions.
Problem is, a Shaq trade is even tougher now than it was when the week began, after the Mavericks lost free-agent point guard Steve Nash to Phoenix without compensation. Dallas and Sacramento are widely considered the only feasible destinations for O'Neal, but the Mavs, without Nash, suddenly don't have a spare star to build a trade package around.
The Lakers are insisting on receiving Dirk Nowitzki in any deal that sends Shaq to Dallas. The Mavericks insist they won't trade Nowitzki and were hoping to involve Nash in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State that would route Warriors free-agent center Erick Dampier to L.A. as Shaq's replacement. That seems impossible now without Nash, and even if the Mavericks were suddenly willing to part with Nowitzki, O'Neal would probably hesistate to commit to a Dallas team without Nowitzki or Nash.
If obstacles keeping cropping up at their current rate, convincing the Lakers to move Shaq could prove as challenging as the Lakers' quest to lure Coach K away from his Duke empire.
-- Marc Stein
According to the source, O'Neal's concerns about the franchise reside at the management level. While he likes and respects Krzyzewski, the Duke coach's hiring (possibly orchestrated by the team in an effort to appease Kobe Bryant) won't change O'Neal posture.
"It isn't relevant," the source said. "The atmosphere has been poisonous because of the way things have been run at the top. Coach K isn't going to own the team."
O'Neal put his interests in another way to the Washington Post.
"Me playing for another coach rather than Phil [Jackson] is like me leaving my wife and marrying a woman that looks like me -- exactly like me," O'Neal told the Post in a telephone interview from his offseason home in Orlando on Friday night.
On his reaction to Krzyzewski meeting with the Lakers, O'Neal told the Post: "Just put, 'Sources said O'Neal's favorite college coach is Dale Brown.' " Brown is O'Neal's former coach at LSU.
O'Neal demanded a trade shortly after the conclusion of the NBA Finals, saying he could no longer play for owner Jerry Buss or general manager Mitch Kupchak and that the team reneged on a promise to give him a contract extension last summer if he "delivered" free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
Last week, in an interview with the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, Shaq reiterated his position.
"Unfortunately, it has come to this. But I want the fans to know that it's not me," he told the newspaper. "They said it's about the money. It's not about the money. It's about honesty, and the honesty me and [former Lakers general manager] Jerry West had. That's been gone for four years now ... It ain't about the extension. Of course, that's what they are going to make it out to be."
Shaq also referred to the Lakers organization as "fat" and not willing to take the steps necessary to keep winning following consecutive title seasons in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
O'Neal reportedly is seeking a two-year extension when his current contract expires in 2006. O'Neal can opt out of his current deal, which will pay him $27 million next season and $30 million in 2005-06, after next season.
Earlier this week, O'Neal's wife, Shaunie, appeared on "Extra," an entertainment magazine program, in which she talked about the family's listing its Beverly Hills mansion for $7.5 million and her interest in having her husband traded to the Dallas Mavericks. O'Neal also publicly has expressed an interest in playing for the Sacramento Kings.
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