At the risk of offending the Mayor of Cleveland yet again … I don’t share the Cavs’ enthusiasm for Shaquille O’Neal. At this stage in his career he’s more comedian than competitor. He’s 37. He can barely move. He can’t shoot free throws. He’s not the Shaq of 1995 or even 2002. He’s just a guy bouncing from team to team, looking for one last ring.
Yes, he’s a better low-post threat than Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (Spud Webb was a better low-post threat than Big Z, who’s a jump-shooting center.) But he’ll also clog the lane in a way deleterious to the game of one LeBron James, who’s the franchise in that charming Ohio city.
The Cavaliers won 66 games because, by putting shooters around him, they spread the floor for LeBron. Shaq will coagulate things. Shaq down low means more standing around and less drive time for LBJ. Shaq down low means Cleveland must pay lip service to the concept of low-post basketball even when Shaq isn’t capable of ruling the low post anymore.
He’s not what we remember him being, the wide-eyed Shaq who slammed home that lob from Kobe in the epic Game 7 comeback against Portland in 2001. He averaged 17.8 points last season for a Phoenix team that scored in bunches, but the Suns missed the playoffs. He went to the desert in 2008 to vouchsafe a championship, and he succeeded in winning one lousy playoff game.
This is one of those moves that sounds great in theory and plays big on “SportsCenter” but, when the rubber meets the road — they say that in Akron, which is next door to Cleveland — won’t work. For all his charm, Shaq is now just another guy.