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Chuckin Shaq? (Trouble in Paradise)

Discussion in 'Pistons and NBA' started by G-man, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. G-man

    G-man Starter

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    Is This Basketball Marriage Doomed?
    Hannah Karp - Wall Street Journal

    "The NBA's hottest new couple announced its engagement earlier this summer, but there have been no candle-lit dinners, secret rendezvous or long walks on the beach.

    Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, who will be teammates on the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers this coming season, say they haven't seen each other socially since the All-Star Game in February. Mr. O'Neal says their recent interchanges have consisted mostly of terse BlackBerry Messenger greetings like "Hey" and "What up?"

    "Everyone thinks you have to like each other to win a championship, but that's not true," says Mr. O'Neal. "You have to have respect but you don't have to go on vacation together."

    Ever since the 37-year-old Mr. O'Neal was traded to the Cavaliers, a team that Mr. James, 24, has ruled throughout his six seasons in the NBA, speculation has been swirling about whether the marriage will work.

    It's rare, in any sport, for stars of such magnitude to come together on the same team. Mr. O'Neal, who has won four NBA titles, has already been voted by players, media and league officials as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time. Mr. James this year became the youngest player in 30 years to be named Most Valuable Player and the second player in NBA history to rack up more than 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in four different seasons.

    Mr. O'Neal is no stranger to public feuds with teammates. He jockeyed for the spotlight with Penny Hardaway in Orlando during his early days in the league and feuded constantly with Kobe Bryant while playing for the Lakers—even though they managed to win three championships together. Mr. O'Neal demanded a trade in 2004, complaining that Mr. Bryant had too much power, though now he says their feud was merely a publicity stunt.

    After Lakers coach Phil Jackson knocked his work ethic while speaking to reporters in 2006, Mr. O'Neal announced that Pat Riley was his new favorite coach. In 2007, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, a teammate at the time, told reporters Mr. O'Neal was lacking in the motivation department. Mr. O'Neal recently sent around a photo of Mr. Wade's head pasted on a woman's body. (Mr. Wade did not return calls for comment).

    Lately Mr. O'Neal has even traded barbs with L.A. Galaxy soccer star David Beckham, who refused to appear on his new TV show.

    Most experts who study teamwork, from former athletes to researchers at the Wharton School say the most important indicator of a partnership's potential is whether the two parties share the same ultimate goal. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an assistant coach for the Lakers who played until he was 42 and was forced to share the spotlight several times in his career (once with Oscar Robertson and again with Magic Johnson) says that's the only question that really matters. "They've both got to show the world they're the best—and the whole world is watching," he says.

    On that count, the union is blessed: Mr. James and Mr. O'Neal stated in separate interviews this month that their No. 1 goal is indeed the same—to win the NBA championship. Mr. James has never won one. Mr. O'Neal, who has won four, says he has already achieved all his other personal goals and feels he has nothing else left to prove. The reason he wants a fifth so badly: "It's a guy thing," he says.

    But the new teammates also revealed that they have slightly different expectations of how they'll achieve their shared vision. They agree, for example, that Mr. James will be "the leader" which, Mr. O'Neal says, makes this the first time in his 17 seasons in the NBA that he has accepted a supporting role. Still, Mr. O'Neal indicated last week that he did not expect to be taking any orders or criticism from his younger counterpart.

    "It won't happen," said Mr. O'Neal when asked how he would react to Mr. James criticizing him or calling him out in a game. "No one ever gets frustrated with me."

    Mr. James, on the other hand, said he's not intimidated by the prospect of leading someone he calls the "most dominant player the game has ever seen" and won't be afraid to confront him.

    "Hopefully I can try and make him learn some things," said Mr. James, noting that Mr. O'Neal "doesn't have the athleticism or quickness he had as a kid." In response, Mr. O'Neal said "it happens to the best of us."

    When asked what he might be able to teach Mr. O'Neal, Mr. James said, "I know I like to work really hard … I think he does also."

    Dave Checketts, former president of the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks, says he believes the two will "find a way to win," but as the season progresses he says the health of their partnership might depend on a third party who can mediate. "Sometimes you literally have to force people in a room to talk," he says.

    Both Mr. O'Neal and Mr. James insisted that they "never" get frustrated with their teammates (psychologists say this suggests both players are almost certainly in denial) and until this point neither one has had to make any monumental compromises. When asked what he was prepared to sacrifice or give up in order to reach his goal this season—a telling question for compatibility analysts—Mr. O'Neal said he didn't understand the question.

    Dr. Virginia Rutter, a sociologist, psychologist and co-author of "The Love Test," likens the Shaq-LeBron union to an arranged marriage, where "the well-being of the group depends on a good union, and the necessity of [the group's] well-being also helps the relationship." In other words, the pair's obligation to the team, she says, makes it more likely they'll get along than if they were friends independently.

    Couples therapists say that in addition to shared goals, another hallmark of successful relationships is a common background. Mr. O'Neal and Mr. James share that as well: both grew up without their biological fathers and had to adapt early on to new homes and situations. (Mr. James had moved around Ohio a dozen times by the time he was 10 as his mother struggled to find work; Mr. O'Neal, born in Newark, N.J., spent much of his childhood in Germany after his mother married an army sergeant, and moved again to Texas when he was 15.)

    NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton says the naysayers are crazy. "You can never have too many good players on one team," he says, adding that one of the few things Mr. O'Neal can teach Mr. James is to lighten up. "LeBron can still learn how to enjoy it – Shaq has a great way of making it fun."

    Mr. O'Neal and Mr. James met for the first time eight years ago when Mr. James was in high school: Mr. O'Neal came to Akron to watch him play. Neither one remembers what he said to the other at the time, though Mr. James says Mr. O'Neal had always been one of his childhood heroes and he has seen several of his movies, including "Blue Chips" and "Kazaam."

    Since then, Mr. James has enjoyed a six-year run in Cleveland as the team's—and the city's—biggest star. Mr. O'Neal, meanwhile, has been busy butting heads with a host of teammates and coaches from coast to coast, always viewing himself as the leader.

    Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, now a TV analyst, says Mr. O'Neal, a center, doesn't solve some of the Cavaliers' biggest problems, including their lack of a shooting forward. In the Eastern Conference finals this year, where the Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic four games to two, "I don't think the center position was Cleveland's demise," he says. Instead, he says, it was their inability to match up with Orlando forward Rashard Lewis. "That's something the trade for O'Neal didn't address." Mr. Van Gundy added that Cleveland's center last season, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, is arguably as effective at the position, if not more so, than Mr. O'Neal.

    In defense of the deal, Cavaliers officials say they're counting on the fact that Mr. O'Neal draws extra defenders when he has the ball—and sometimes even when he doesn't—which will give Mr. James more room to work and leave one man wide open. (Mr. Ilgauskas seldom got double-teamed.) "He is a force," said Danny Ferry, Cleveland's general manager, in a recent press conference, adding that Mr. O'Neal is a good passer, great receiver and strong on both ends of the court.

    Cleveland is also more of a half-court team, Mr. Ferry said, which is a tempo that suits Mr. O'Neal better than a running team like Phoenix did. "It's going to be really interesting to see how he blends into our group, but he's a good basketball player, a smart basketball player and a guy that our guys will respect."

    If it doesn't work, this basketball marriage could be annulled relatively quickly. Mr. O'Neal is in the last year of his contract, so if the experiment fails, he could be traded by February's deadline, leaving the Cavs poised to attract another big-name player the next summer, when Mr. James will be a free agent.

    One thing's for sure: the pair wouldn't last long on "The Newlywed Game." Mr. O'Neal said last week he did not know Mr. James's favorite spot to shoot the ball from in the three-point range, while Mr. James was surprised to learn that Mr. O'Neal led the league with his field-goal percentage last season.

    "Really? That's great. I hope he can do it again," said Mr. James.

    Is the Shaq and LeBron Basketball Marriage Doomed? - WSJ.com
     
  2. Robert Michael

    Robert Michael First Round Draft Pick

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    Shaq will be traded by the deadline.
     
  3. Pistons Lover

    Pistons Lover First Round Draft Pick

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    He will be booted right to the curb if he trys to be their [sarcasm]King[/sarcasm]!!!!!
     
  4. BillLaimbeer

    BillLaimbeer All-Star 4x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    G-man, interesting piece. I don't think you're supposed to copy and paste entire articles to the forum, though.
     
  5. G-man

    G-man Starter

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    :call-police:

    Relax Jasper. Full credit to the author and a link to the original article were given. Normally I do try and snip a few paragraphs of each piece posted. Sometimes when I've got multiples going I forget to clip the hedges. The much bigger offense is in not giving credit to an author and it's publication of origin, something I never miss. In your honor I'll double down and try to make sure it doesn't happen again amigo...
     
  6. BallDon'tLie

    BallDon'tLie All-Star 3x Fantasy Champion

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    What's up with all the "Mr. O'Neal" and "Mr. James" crap?
     
  7. BillLaimbeer

    BillLaimbeer All-Star 4x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    You must always remember to clip the hedges. Here is an example for you to follow:

    [​IMG]
     
  8. jammertime

    jammertime Starter 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    I had an entirely different picture in my head. :pound:
     
  9. Darth Tater

    Darth Tater All-Star Forum Donor 6x Fantasy Champion

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    There were probably icicles hanging from the bush you imagined...
     
  10. MACKSnare519

    MACKSnare519 First Round Draft Pick

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    Yes! That was very annoying...
     
  11. Special K

    Special K Second Round Draft Pick

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    I saw this on Saturday when my dad handed me the newspaper. I read the article, and I kinda had this image in my head is that the only way that Shaq can win is with another superstar, I.E. Kobe and D-Wade (obviously) but personally, I don't see this failing as much as the success he had with the Suns. I think this will be a succesful marriage, that most likely won't end in divorce.
     
  12. Walter

    Walter All-Star Forum Donor

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    It won't change Cleveland that much. They'll still bully their way through the regular season and then fail to make it to the Finals.
     
  13. coynejeremy

    coynejeremy All-Star Administrator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    I don't know how Shaq created this legend that Kobe couldn't win without him. It's not like he has ever won a championship without another superstar himself.
     

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