A few months back, Dime‘s Aron Phillips told you Shaq‘s best option would be to return home to Newark, New Jersey and play for the Nets next season. ESPN is now reporting there are multiple teams ready to pony up and give The Diesel the mid-level exception. That basically rules out retirement, perhaps the top option for the oldest player in the League. Now a full year away from the Suns’ trainers, Shaq might just balloon to 515 pounds and completely break down. You never know.
Besides a permanent vacation, here are the five best situations Shaquille O’Neal could end up in this year.
5. New Jersey
I could see it now: Prokhorov and Shaq doing big things. What transpires on the court would probably lack substance. But the off-court stuff could be classic. This could be better than Shaq/Kobe or even Shaq/Cuban.
With the Nets best player manning the pivot, Shaq could struggle to backup someone as young (22) and goofy (too much stuff to list) as Brook Lopez. And if the team ends up with just Carlos Boozer in free agency, how will Shaq deal with another irrelevant season? Still, he would give New Jersey a jolt and could definitely play a role on a young team. While I’m not sure going home holds that much weight in Shaq’s mind, he could do worse than Newark. Wait… never mind.
As the home team, the Cavs can pay Shaq more than anyone else. You can’t underestimate that with O’Neal, who is known for being extra sensitive. He can start here, just like last year, and could fail to live up to expectations, just like last year. People forget that last year, the Cavs were rolling with the Diesel. Then, he suffered a broken right thumb and could never get back into a groove.
Shaq’s chances to play here fall entirely to LeBron. Does he want O’Neal back? The Cavs would deal their entire lineup if it meant having LB back. If the King says the word, the Cavs brass will do his bidding. Right now, Bron is too concerned with trying to entice Chris Bosh to be his wingman. The former Raptor wants a center in place first, so Shaq’s value to the team just went up.
In a group of old-timers, Shaq would fit right in as the oldest of them all. There would be nothing stranger than seeing Shaq sporting the green. He doesn’t really seem like a Boston type for some reason, but as long as Doc Rivers (the two share mutual respect), Kevin Garnett (ditto) and Paul Pierce (ditto) are there, there’s a chance O’Neal could crash the Tea Party. With Kendrick Perkins coming off major knee surgery and Rasheed Wallace joining his body in retirement, there is a need for someone in the middle. And Shaq could provide what Perkins did: great defense and ugly offense. The Celtics are probably deciding between Shaq and Brad Miller, another cranky oldie.
Basketball-wise, this is a great fit. There are rumors the Hawks have already made an offer and they should. When your center is a converted 6-9 forward and your backup center isn’t known for much more than having a funny name and bad hair, you know you need a new frontcourt anchor. Dwight Howard averaged 21 points and 13.3 rebounds on 84 percent shooting against them in the second round. The Hawks need to do something. Shaq isn’t Bill Russell. But, he’s not Zaza either. If you can afford to dish out $120 million to Joe Johnson, you can throw a few dollars Shaq’s way. He won’t instantly change the outlook of the team next year, but at least his presence makes them a little bit larger.
Would fans show up to see the Diesel? They don’t show up anyways, so Atlanta might as well roll the dice.
This is the marriage that has been on and off for the last few years. You know Cuban wants Shaq and the Big Fella craves attention. Big D would become even bigger and crazier with one more loud mouth around. But it might not happen: the Mavs seem intent on trying to bring back Brendan Haywood and have promised him a starting gig. Could the two share their food?
Obviously, this move would be judged by how he fits in on the court. The Mavs had two big men in Haywood and Erick Dampier last season and neither one could really get a handle on the job. If Haywood gets offered big money by a team like the Miami Heat, Dallas will have a tough decision. And I don’t think Ericka would really want to play with Shaq. With all $13 million of his salary for next year non-guaranteed, Dampier will more than likely not be in a Mavs uniform next year – at least not at that price. Dallas needs some more size to compete with the Lakers. Is Shaq that guy?
What do you think? What’s the best destination for Shaq?
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