It’s believed the Hawks have interest in signing Shaquille O’Neal, and it’s believed he’s interested in playing here. This is, from the Hawks’ side, a terrible idea. The reasons why:
1. Shaq has almost nothing left. He’s 38. He weighs 750 pounds, give or take. Two seasons ago his team — the Phoenix Suns — didn’t make the playoffs. Last season he joined Cleveland, which promptly got worse: It declined from 66-16 in 2008-2009 to 61-21 in 2009-2010 and lost in Round 2 of the playoffs after reaching the Eastern Conference finals the year before. He averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds last season — approximately half his career averages.
2. At this stage of his career, Shaq isn’t as good a center as Al Horford. Yes, Shaq is bigger than Horfy. Shaq, as noted, is bigger than Stone Mountain. But bigger isn’t necessarily better. Horford averaged 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds and made the All-Star team. Shaq has seen his last All-Star roster.
3. If they add Shaq, the Hawks would weaken themselves at THREE positions. I know a slew of folks insist Horford’s “true” position is power forward, but those folks are, and have always been, flat-out wrong. As gifted as Horford is, he would not be an All-Star at power forward. And if Horford moves to power forward, Josh Smith must play on the perimeter. And nobody in his right mind wants that. A small forward has to shoot (and make) jump shots. Do you really want to grant Smith that license? Thought not.
4. Even if he says he’s willing to take a lesser role, he’s still Shaquille O’Neal. Meaning: He’s an outsize presence with outsize cachet. A NBA man swears the Cavs underperformed because Shaq drove a wedge between coach Mike Brown and LeBron James. Let the record reflect that Brown had led the Cavs to the 2007 NBA finals and was the league’s coach of the year in 2008-2009. Let the record also reflect that Brown is out of work. Now imagine what Shaq might do to a rookie head coach, meaning Larry Drew.
5. This has Moses Malone written all over it. For late tuners-in: The Hawks won 50 games in 1987-88 and nearly upset the Boston Celtics in Round 2 of the playoffs. Desperate to go further, they traded for Reggie Theus and signed Moses Malone. They wound up winning only two more regular-season games and being eliminated by the undermanned Milwaukee Bucks in Round 1 in 1988-89, essentially ending the Hawks’ dreams of contention. And Moses, we should note, was 33 when he arrived here and much closer to his Hall of Fame prime than Shaq is today.