The smirk on Mitch Kupchak’s face widened at the mere mention of his name.
Safe to say Kupchak’s admission that “it’s a little surprising” that Shaquille O’Neal became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings seems a bit understated. That’s because O’Neal spent part of his eight years with the Lakers dismissively calling the Sacramento franchise the “Queens” before eliminating them from the 2000 to 2002 NBA playoffs en route to three championships.
“I think it’s great,” Kupchak said Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I think the ownership there has a lot of energy and excitement and made some changes.”
Instead of selling the franchise to Seattle, the maligned Maloof brothers sold the Kings franchise to California-based group headed up by TIBCO chairman Vivek Ranadive for an NBA record $534 million. He then hired Pete D’Alessandro as general manager, Mike Malone as coach and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin as an advisor. Meanwhile, O’Neal has a long business and personal relationship with 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who is one of Ranadive’s partners
O’Neal’s role with the Kings apparently will involve developing the team’s talented albeit immature center in DeMarcus Cousins.
“I’m glad I’m not DeMarcus Cousins, though,” Kupchak said. “I’ll tell you that. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out. But if Shaq told me to do something, I would do it. I wouldn’t argue.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org