Shaq’s Next (Delicate) Steps

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As he stepped to the podium Tuesday morning for his introductory news conference, Shaquille O’Neal reached down to goose Mark Mastrov, a long-time acquaintance and now a fellow minority owner. Just because.

This is going to be fun. And different. Probably unlike anything ever seen in an NBA front office, actually. This is going to be nutty, free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness Shaq who can make people love him or make people really dislike him or now, in the case of his suddenly updated Sacramento history, both.

This is going to be tricky.

The Shaquille O’Neal the Kings got Tuesday — glib, handling the attention as if it was Greg Ostertag, creating excitement just by his presence — is the one that will make a positive difference as a marketing move. He charmed, though it helped that one of his toughest tasks was responding to all the requests from media members to take a picture with him. O’Neal even apologized, with all apparent sincerity, for referring to his new team as the Queens a couple lifetimes ago during the Lakers-Kings playoff matchups layered in antagonism.

It’s the other one that could be dangerous. O’Neal bought into the new ownership group, at approximately 2-4% by Forbes’ estimates, not only with the understanding that he will have input on the direction of the team but with majority owner Vivek Ranadive encouraging him to speak up.

For one thing, Shaq does not need to be encouraged to speak up. For another, he should be very careful when he does.

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It may not happen, but this would be a good time for O’Neal to hang back on the basketball front. The Kings have good things going on and the smart hire as general manager, Pete D’Alessandro, and the smart hire as coach, Michael Malone, should be allowed to work. Most anything connected to O’Neal creates the possibility of disruption and even outright conflict. It’s just who he is. It’s gravity.

Ranadive and D’Alessandro are saying all the right things about wanting an open environment around the team and welcoming the input, especially from a center bound for the Hall of Fame. It sounds good. But knowing Shaq, as many coaches and front offices around the league do, means starting a clock on how long before he throws someone from the Kings under the bus or gives instructions to DeMarcus Cousins counter to what the coaching staff wants. And knowing he envisions himself as a potential general manager of the future, and having once said he didn’t know all the starting centers within his own division as a player, O’Neal may push for moves without having fully scouted or studied.

“I think DeMarcus has had good people around him,” D’Alessandro said. “I’ve met a lot of those people. I’ve met his family. Great people. It helps me to have Shaq around, so I know it helps DeMarcus to have Shaq around. It helps the business side to have Shaq around. It’s going to help everyone. The focus is really that. And now we have a great young emerging talent at the same position. It’s going to obviously effect that as well.”

Asked if he expects to hear from O’Neal on personnel matters, D’Alessandro said: “I hope to. I’m a believer, much like Vivek, in that open flow of communication, and if someone has a strength, if someone has a perspective, every perspective is good, especially the perspective of a Hall of Famer like him. So I would hope so, yeah.”

The specifics of his role remain vague, so maybe O’Neal will primarily be a marketing magnet. Tuesday, when asked to describe his specific duties around the team itself and with Cousins, Shaq had no specifics to offer. The closest was “We will have conversations” (regarding Cousins) and “We will let the general manager and the assistant general manager do what they do” (regarding basketball operations). Ranadive did add that “We’re not going to micro-manage. We’re just there to support them and help them in any way.”

21 Comments

  1. DYLin says:

    Hope he could lead Sacramento to another golden age, just like the team of early 2000’s (Team with Divac, C-Webb, Peja, Christie, Bibby, Pollard, Bobby Jackson, Brad Miller..etc.)

  2. celentano says:

    So at the end of the season 2014, i bet on my own mother shaq gonna leave “shaqramento” + his investments and his secret society skills too !!!lol.
    Should be funny shaq mentoring cousins (both having immature mentalitys) with “shaqramento”,soon they start fighting!lol.

  3. ken says:

    welcome to sacremento shaq!

  4. Penny says:

    Will he still work on TNT?

  5. malone..Brooklyn ball state rec says:

    Congrats diesel on your ownership of the shaqcramento kings..hopefully they turn it around..let that white boy fredette lite it up

  6. Hoops says:

    Good news. Lets see how this unfolds.

  7. Bobby Klein says:

    Contrary the spiteful tone of some posts, I think the article offers a well-balanced account of all the issues surrounding this takeover. It’s as if some people just want journalists being Shaq cheerleaders. Leave Scott Howard Cooper alone and let him do his job.

    Sacramento’neal !

  8. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    Shaq said before: SACRAMENTO QUEENS!!!…. nuff said

  9. Brian Pryor says:

    May be well with [Dr.] Shaquille O’Neal part
    of the Sacramento Kings, front office or may be a of disraction to the organzation.

  10. Łukasz says:

    no i super

  11. Howard says:

    One name alteration deserves another, congratulations on your ownership in the Shaqramento Queens

  12. jty7271 says:

    So Shaq owned Sac during his career, and now they want him to own them in his retirement too?

  13. Keenan says:

    Scott-Howard Cooper should be fired for this article. terribly negative and horribly written. yellow journalism at it’s finest.

  14. jty7271 says:

    Couldn’t he have just mentored Cousins without turning it into some kind of ego boost and business opportunity for him? Of course not.

  15. Rafael says:

    Shaq seems very genuine on helping to make Sacramento, the Kings, and Demarcus Cousins the best they can be. It’s a new era and I’m happy to be a part of SHAQramento!!!

  16. if the kings could get a lil mature…shaq’s investment would be worth it

  17. jake s says:

    umm ok?

  18. waltwilliams55 says:

    Way to bring down any positive this could add and denounce a great businessmen, Hall of Famer, and person.

  19. KareemOftheCrop says:

    Thanks for your opinion media. Seems like everyone is happy with Shaq in Sacramento so leave it at that.

  20. John says:

    My favorite NBA team now is the Shaqramento Kings!