The Vet Min Shaq Is the Only One Worth Having

The blogosphere is aflame with the buzz of Shaq. Word is he wants $8M/yr, 2 years, and starters minutes. I would like to make the case that the only Shaq worth having is a Vet Min Shaq. The problem is not the demands per se so much as it is the fact that there are demands at all. At 39 he is a player with limitations almost as enormous as his ego. And that ego is an enormous threat to Ubuntu. His is, was, and will only be more so, slow. Playing him in the 4th quarter of close games will always be a dangerous gamble because every trip to the free throw line is an adventure. For Shaquille the trip to the line is no charity but a nerve wracking flirt with disaster; after all, his epic difficulties have spawned an entire late-game strategy—Hack-a-Shaq.

Shaq has always felt himself larger than life, and the game. At this point he is worth avoiding unless his monstrous ego can be checked so that he comes to the team with hat in hand, eager to do whatever is needed in order to be a part of one more title run in the twilight of his career. Until the “I want’s” become “what can I do’s” this massive personality’s potential for disruption far outweighs any on-court contribution he can muster. So until the tune changes let the Big Diesel chug noisily off into the sunset, or at least off to some venue where His Largeness doesn’t threaten to crowd out the success of the team.

Now don’t get me wrong, Shaquille could be a tremendous asset. He certainly won’t clog the offensive lane for Rondo, Pierce, or Daniels driving any more than Perk. He certainly can finish around the basket as well as
Perk, after all, they have similar vertical leaps (hops, O.K. tippytoes) and Shaq is at least three inches taller. Their free throw percentages are discouragingly close. Even at 39 Shaq has nice moves within 4’ of the basket. As far as slowing down the break, Shaq won’t be filling any lanes; but his job is to start the break by cleaning the boards and making the outlet pass—and he does that just fine.

No, my problems with The Large One have to do with the size of his personality and the fact that he loves looking in the mirror. When he is seeing the world through that mirror, his size makes it hard for him to see anyone but himself. Therein lies the rub. Whether it be initiating the offense, dominating the conversation on the team bus, or holding court in the interview room, Shaquille O’Neal seldom takes a back seat to anyone. It is not that he can’t, it just doesn’t come naturally. Over the years Shaq has proven to be an able passer and he certainly was able to allow Kobe to dominate the ball. But that relationship grew contentious and there is already a cluster of stars in Boston with whom he would have to share the limelight.

Unless The Ample One is ready, no make that anxious, to take a complementary role, this just isn’t going to go well. Shaq is half a dozen years beyond the point where it dawned on the individuals comprising the Big Three that together they could be ever so much more than they could alone. But Shaquille doesn’t have the hunger and longing that brought KPG to the convergence to climb the summit together. I’m just afraid that O’Neal the Greater will long be in his rocker before it occurs to him that less could be more. So until he shows up with work pail in hand, give me the Vet Min Shaq, or give me no Shaq at all.