The Shaq deal: He’ll make the Cavaliers worse, not better

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.

35 comments Add your comment


June 25th, 2009
9:09 am

Shaq proved last year with the Suns that he could still run the fast break offense, his addition means that when the Cavs are in a half court set you better not double Lebron…Are the Cavs better now? That’s really are stupid question!!


June 25th, 2009
9:10 am

Mark, you hit the nail on the head with this one.

This will force their coach to actually run an offense with balance, post play and off the ball movement, not sure LBJ has ever had to share the ball.

It’ll be interesting.


June 25th, 2009
9:12 am

I’m glad I’m not the only person seeing this. Shaq isn’t the type of Center Cleveland needs. Big Z is the perfect Lebron center. Someone to shoot Jumpers and clear the lane. Cleveland’s big issue is Orlando. Not Dwight Howard, but Rashard Lewis and Hedo. Cleveland needed an agile 6′9 type to match up with Lewis at PF on the 3pt line. I can’t hate on the trade though. They got Shaq for a bag of nickles. I wish the Hawks had made that move. Shaq for Marvin, Claxton, and Law.

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
9:14 am

Thanks, Jamaaliver. Obviously not everyone agrees with us.

June 25th, 2009
9:15 am

I disagree Mr. Bradley. I think the fundamental difference between Cleveland and Phoenix is the pace at which the two teams aspire to play. There were three places where I don’t think Shaq could fit in well: Phoenix, Golden State, and New Orleans. Three teams that want to play as close to the style of Division III’s Grinnell where the quickest shot is usually the best shot.


June 25th, 2009
9:15 am


A healthy Shaq last year couldn’t even lead PHX to the playoffs.


June 25th, 2009
9:17 am

Mark, I agree with you on this one. I think the move was made to defend against D Howard but what people fail to realize is that Orlando runs alot of pick and roll. Shaq is an awful pick and roll defender. I can see Hedo getting uncontested jumpers all day coming off screens set by Howard. And as you said Shaq is a lane clogger. I don’t see those lanes being open for LBJ to drive the way they used to be. I think this is a big overreaction to them losing in the conference finals. OH well Go HAWKS!

tribe called quest!

June 25th, 2009
9:19 am

How can the nba allow a team to trade ben wallace (hasnt done anything for 5 years) and pavlovic (who?) for the most dominant player ever? shaq isnt who he used to be , but he can still score the basketball. and this trade will hurt cleveland. but wallace and pavlovic? come on

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
9:22 am

Shaq isn’t the most dominant player ever. He’s good, but Kareem was better. Russell was better. Wilt was better. And that’s just centers.

Herschel Talker

June 25th, 2009
9:36 am



June 25th, 2009
9:38 am

I don’t think a ‘past his prime’ Shaq will help Cleveland. They will definitely sell a few more tickets but unfortunately will not help them win the championship…

Mz. Hawkdafied

June 25th, 2009
9:38 am

I agree with you, Mark Bradley. It didn’t work for Phoenix, it’s not gonna fly in Cleveland. Shaq is just not the same, physically. I’m glad the Hawks didn’t go for Shaq, I personally prefer Jamal Crawford. I used to be a fan of Shaq back in the 90’s. Now all he seems to do is try to stay in the limelight. Charlie V gets in trouble for twittering, Shaq twitters at a game. Kobe loses a championship, he asks how his behind tastes. Kobe wins a championship, he tweets that he wants Kobe to win. Dwight Howard is called superman, Shaq wants the world to know that he is the original son of Krypton. When will Shaq learn it’s not always about him. Lebron and his team strike poses with imaginary a camera before every game, well Shaq comes up with pretending his team mates are bowling pins and pretends to know them down with an imaginary bowl ball. Shaq needs to fall back and let the other NBA players have their time in the limelight alone.


June 25th, 2009
9:40 am


I agree. Plus is Shaq going to be upset if he is not getting the ball enough? Do the Cavs rest him on the second of back to backs (like the Suns did)? What kind of shape is he in? Too many questions for somebody who makes $20mil, and is also looking for a 2 yesr extension.

If I was Danny Ferry, I would have signed Rasheed. He probably costs 2 Years, $16-$17 mil. He can shoot the 3, so he can bring Howard out of the paint, he has had good games against Howard, and he is more likely to stay healthy. Plus you get 2 years for the price of one.

Bad move Danny Ferry.


June 25th, 2009
9:45 am

I disagree with you Mark. The Cavs are not making a huge investment in Shaq and can unload his expiring contract at the end of the season. Keeping them in good position for the 2010 free agency market. He does bring a presence and championship pedigree to the Cavs. If you noticed the Cavs lost because Howard dominated the paint. No Shaq is not the same player he once was but is he still better than Kendrick Perkins? Plus with Big Z and Shaq splitting minutes both bigs will be fresher later in the season. The Cavs still need another perimeter defender with the ability to knock down a 3. (Bruce Bowen will be released soon). But this move definitely makes sense, if for no other reason that you have a one year window before the whole league turns upside down, and that is the only real commitment that you are making.

Al Beeski

June 25th, 2009
9:50 am

This is a tough one to call, because obviously Cleveland lost because Mo picked the wrong time to hit a slump & no one defended Hedo & Turk. Big Z or Shaq CANNOT solve either of those issues. But I gotta believe a 37 yr. old diesel is more mobile & more help than Big Z. And he was not a better offensive player than Kareem or a better defensive player than Russell, but he was more DOMINANT! Only the slayer of 20,000 broads was more DOMINANT!

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

June 25th, 2009
9:58 am

Shaq makes sense just to help offset D Howard. That will be Cleveland’s only competition next year. The Cavs don’t need offense and Shaq laying on Dwight for 25 minutes is going to slow down his rebounding. In addition, it doesn’t cost the Cavs a thing so why not.

Meat Rabbit

June 25th, 2009
10:02 am

Deletrious…coagulate….vouchsafe?? I’m glad I had my Roget’s Thesaurus on my desk. I applaud you, MB, for making me open it.


June 25th, 2009
10:07 am



June 25th, 2009
10:11 am

I’m not sure I agree because Cleveland is trading players that weren’t helping them to get Shaq. If Cleveland limits Shaq’s minutes in the regular season, he stays healthy, and gets into good shape I could see him helping come playoff time. It’s not like Pavlovic of Wallace were helping. Nobody who’s 7′2, 330 with Shaq’s talent is ‘just a guy’.


June 25th, 2009
10:12 am

I may be legally blind but even I see LaBron getting most of his points slashing to the hoop, Shaq will only clog the middle and prevent this from happening!


June 25th, 2009
10:14 am

Read a report that the Cavs were also in discussion with the Hornets for Tyson Chandler. Hornets tried to trade him last trade dead line. The Hawks need a tall athletic center I say the Hawks should try to make another move? Also the Clippers are looking to trade Marcus Camby since they are drafting Blake Griffin. Camby is old but still has it going on. We dont need a scorer at Center and he can play some D?

The Dogfighter Returns

June 25th, 2009
10:25 am

shaq who? shaq will not stop dwight howard. when was the last time he lived in a cold weather city.

grew up in san antonio, attended lsu, drafted by orlando, went to l.a., went to miami, then phoenix.

this guy will gain 50lbs living in the cold arse cleveland.


June 25th, 2009
10:25 am

Shaq with Cleveland is like asking a Basset Hound to run with Greyhounds

Think it through

June 25th, 2009
10:38 am

Shaq not what he used to be? Sure. Not even half of what he used to be? I’ll buy that. But to go as far as saying he makes the Cavs worse is just plain silly. Did you really think this one through? Did Shaq clog the lane for D-Wade? Kobe? You act like this guy doesn’t understand whose team this is. Come on people. You’re smarter than that.


June 25th, 2009
10:55 am

I’m having visions of Moses replacing Tree to give the Hawks the “final piece for a Championship season”.

How did that work out again?


June 25th, 2009
11:17 am

Cleveland will not win a championship with Shaq. However, the pregame skits should be worth the price of admission!!


June 25th, 2009
11:19 am

Mark, you will eat these words come June of next year.

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
11:22 am

Which words will I eat? “Deleterious”? “Coagulate”? “Vouchsafe”?

Just kidding. Thanks for caring enough to look something up, MR. Did I misuse more than two of them?


June 25th, 2009
11:23 am

shaq is a stiff!!!


June 25th, 2009
11:26 am

bradley you are out of your mind SHAQ=MDE…most dominant ever. russell, wilt, and kareem didnt even come close to playing against the the level of competition that shaq faces. go back to the tapes and check out his mvp year in 99-00 and see what a real center looks like

[...] Shaq to Cleveland = Cleveland Worse? – AJC [...]

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
1:31 pm

Russell played against Wilt, Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy, Zelmo Beaty and Nate Thurmond at a time when the NBA was half the size it is today. Kareem played against Wilt and Bill Walton and Dave Cowens and Reed and Thurmond and Artis Gilmore and Moses Malone and Robert Parish.

Apart from Hakeem and Patrick Ewing, who were Shaq’s peers?

MN Possum

June 25th, 2009
3:02 pm

Kareem and Wilt also had Wes Unseld in the mix. Unseld and his strength would have given Shaq fits.


June 25th, 2009
5:04 pm

I have to disagree on this one dude.Cleveland was not getting past Boston or Orlando next season.Lebron had a huge year and all that but to count on him playing 1on 5 down the stretch again in the playoffs is unrealistic.Shaq moves as well as he did in Miami and he didn’t get into Wade’s way all that much.Personally I think Nash has lost more of his game at this point than Shaq.Lebron lost to SA in the finals,Orlando in the conference finals and what was the common thread?They had nothing in the paint in either series offense or defense.Z can’t get it done


June 28th, 2009
11:57 am

shaq will help the cavs this season, however orlando and atlanta will also be better. For the cavs, this is sink or swim, they have no room for error. The hawks might take the cavs this season because if they resign zaza and pick up one more scorer, like hedo.