O'Neal wants last word in flop flap

Updated: March 7, 2009, 1:18 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

HOUSTON -- Shaquille O'Neal is still seething about Stan Van Gundy criticizing him for allegedly flopping, even after the Orlando coach apologized.

"Don't play with me," O'Neal said Friday morning, where the Suns were preparing to play Yao Ming and the Rockets in the evening. "Seriously, don't play with me. Like I said earlier, I don't like front-runners. I think he used the wrong choice of words. Flopping means that, hey, Shaq does that all the time. The rules say, you take it in the middle, you've got to fall back. And that's what I did."

The Flop Flap started Tuesday night, when Shaq and the Phoenix Suns played the Magic in Orlando. Dwight Howard made a spin move in the third quarter, O'Neal fell trying to draw an offensive foul, and Howard easily dunked.

Afterward, Van Gundy said he was "shocked and very disappointed" that O'Neal would resort to such a tactic. O'Neal fired back, calling his former coach in Miami "a front-runner" and "a master of panic."

Van Gundy said he was sorry Thursday and jokingly called Shaq "a very sensitive guy."

Although Shaq said Friday the spat with Van Gundy was finished as far as he was concerned, he still wanted to have the final word.

He said what he had to say, I said what I had to say. Don't play with me.

-- Shaquille O'Neal, regarding Stan Van Gundy

"It was a cheap shot," O'Neal said of Van Gundy's original barb. "They won the game, move on. My thing is, I don't ask for a lot, but I demand my respect, especially from a guy like that.

"It's over now. He said what he had to say, I said what I had to say. Don't play with me."

Van Gundy and O'Neal have developed an icy relationship since Shaq went to play for Van Gundy in Miami for the 2004-05 season. The Heat won 59 games that season, but it ended with a loss to Detroit. After the game, O'Neal said he didn't get the ball enough.

O'Neal said he and the 7-foot-6 Yao should be the ones complaining about players who flop. O'Neal said smaller players often get the benefit of the doubt from referees when they try to guard them.

"Flopping has become a big concern, but I just take it as a sign of ultimate respect," O'Neal said. "[A player thinks], 'I can't guard you. I'm just going to fall down and cry to the refs.' Most of the time, the ref believes it.

"It's always David and Goliath," O'Neal added. "The little man always gets it. Their thing is, 'You're big and strong, you can take it.' But my point is, a pinch feels the same to me as it feels to you. Like I always try to tell you referees: You guys make the rules up, so a foul is a foul. It doesn't matter if a guy is bigger and stronger."

Yao complained about the officiating after he fouled out of Wednesday's 101-94 loss in Utah. His sixth foul came after he collided with Ronnie Brewer with 1:23 left in the game.

Yao agreed with O'Neal that referees seem to have a double standard.

"I know for the rest of the players and the rest of the referees, they don't face us every night," Yao said. "We face those rules every night. That makes us feel different."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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