At 4-14 and mired in last place in the Southeast Division through the first quarter of the year, the season isn’t technically over yet for the Miami Heat, but it’s getting close. To put it bluntly, they’ve been awful this year. They look slow, they have trouble scoring, they can’t stop other teams and it seems like they’re consistently on the wrong end of blowouts. Losers of four in a row, the Heat are in Golden State tonight – the odds of them getting cracked and run right out of the gym are pretty great.
Warranted or not, Shaq has been the focus of a lot of the blame for Miami’s struggles. Fans, writers and even Dwyane Wade have been critical of Shaq the past few months and it’s apparently put the Diesel in a pretty poor mood.
From today’s Miami Herald:
PORTLAND, Ore. —
If Heat center Shaquille O’Neal is on the decline, he’s not going down quietly.
Upset with his team’s poor start, and with his teammate’s inability to get him the ball, O’Neal might have reached a breaking point.
O’Neal, 35, is averaging career lows in points (15.4), rebounds (7.4), minutes (28.4) and field-goal attempts (10.8). He also has an all-time low level of tolerance for teammates who can’t seem to get on the same page with him, and others who say his age is the biggest reason behind his decrease in production.
”If I’m taking 20 shots a game, and I’m only making two, then you can say my production is going down,” O’Neal said. “But I’m still shooting 60 or 65 percent from the field. So they’ve got to find better ways to get me the ball. It should be simple.”
Asked if he has expressed concerns with teammates or coach Pat Riley, O’Neal said, “I shouldn’t have to [expletive] communicate that.”
You cannot argue with the fact that Shaq is older and a step (or a few) slower, but to his credit, when given the opportunity, he can still take care of business. He gave Yao 20 and 14 in late November and put 20 points on Dwight Howard the next night, so you know he still has something. And he clearly thinks the problem with the Heat is much bigger than just getting him the ball:
There also was talk that O’Neal had stopped initiating conversation with some teammates out of frustration.
”I’m not a yeller — we already have enough yellers on this team,” O’Neal said. “I don’t want to sound like everybody else. I just try to keep a positive attitude with the guys. But it’s enough talking. We have to do.”
O’Neal believes that starts with better defense, going through him on offense and surrounding him with players capable of stepping up.
”You have to know what the makeup of the team is,” O’Neal said, hinting he needs more aggressive players on the court. ‘Guys should drive, they should cut. I’m a great passer from the post. Other guys have to take it personally if they’re fronting me and backing me. You have to say, `OK, they’re disrespecting me, so I’m going to get 40 on you tonight.’ ”