Came across an interesting tidbit in Sam Smith’s always juicy NBA column in the Chicago Tribune. Have fun:

“Yes, Shaquille O’Neal is the 800-pound elephant in the room. No one really wants to talk about it, but the Heat’s main issue is the decline of O’Neal with three years left on his contract at $20 million per season.

Heat coach Pat Riley in his post-series comments said he was to blame for what he called the “pervasive” attitude of the veterans that the team could turn it on at any time. Hmm, wonder whom he meant. Riley said it would have been “a mockery” if the Heat had defeated the Bulls.

“It would have sent the wrong message. We didn’t do anything the right way this year,” Riley said. Then he added: “If he wants to give back $10 million and play half the season, fine.” Wonder again whom he meant.

Miami insiders said not only was O’Neal indifferent to the regular season, as usual, and this time had knee surgery, but he’d even go so far as to tell teammates not to bother with defense, apparently to not make his own indifference look bad. The Heat’s options seem limited with a huge payroll, and O’Neal remains a popular figure fans pay to see. But they don’t pay to see Miami lose like it did.

Have they had enough?

Despite O’Neal’s presence and reputation, he’ll turn 36 next season. Frankly, it’s difficult to see many teams that would even take a chance on him.

And then there is Dallas, which is where Shaq wanted to go when he was breaking up with the Lakers.

In losing to the Warriors in the first round, it seemed clear what the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki most needed was someone to take the pressure off. Could Shaq be that guy?

Mavs owner Mark Cuban said they are not panicking or breaking up the team, but time will tell. Miami needs a major overhaul. Would Dallas panic and take a last shot with Shaq? Maybe for Erick Dampier, Devin Harris and a sign-and-trade with Jerry Stackhouse to give the Heat some life again? It does seem farfetched. But it has been a half-century since both finalists from the previous year went out in the first round. And it didn’t look like either could win.”

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  • titi

    I just want you to know that I enjoy your reports and comments.

    When Ross left I said that I didn’t like the way rich wrote his notes or talked about Kobe and the team.

    You are different, you are balanced in your comments and you take the time to write what you think and you make notes and comments that you think are related to the Lakers or basketball, and that’s great.

    Thank you for the work that you do.

  • gdchild

    I don’t care how Shaq did or is doing in the Heat. I care about how the Lakers did and is doing to build around Kobe and be a title contender now.

    However, it’s good that you at least mention Shaq’s failure as a leader. Unlike some hack in still spew that “be careful for what you wish, Kobe” crap, or Simmers now told the Lakers/Laker fans to get over Shaq after he was swept again while most media types brought up Shaq’s 4th ring as a Heater to diss Kobe.

  • G_Man

    Kobes comments about Shaq that he was heavily berated for at the time, have proved true today as at the time He made them. Shaq doesnt deserve the accolades hes gotten in his career. He has never worked hard at anything basketball related his whole career. Hes never gotten better at any part of his game. I for one was glad The Lakers got rid of his fat butt. Kobe was the teams sole during the championship years. Hes the one (Kobe) that carried us during those 82 game seasons. Not Shaq. Shaq got all the credit once we got to the playoffs. But Kobe is the one that carried us there every year. The Lakers did the right thing regardless what the media (specifically the L.A. Times) says.