Shaq a Laker again?

Shaq and Kobe in happier times

I have a lot of respect for FoxSports basketball writer Charlie Rosen. Whether or not I agree with him, I feel his opinion on anything basketball is a must-read.

Yesterday, in his column, Charlie took on an interesting question about Shaquille O’Neal, a question I have been asking myself for some time now.

What are the chances the Lakers sign Shaq for the minimum? I think he would be a great fit for the Lakers coming off the bench for Bynum. — Michael Leichter

“I heartily agree that Shaq’s presence would be an enormous benefit for the Lakers. He knows the triangle, agrees with its concepts and is a can’t-miss target for the low-post entry passes that trigger more varied options than passes into Bynum or Gasol can. Plus, although he’s slower off his feet and side to side than ever before, Shaq’s sheer mass could be useful defensively against pivotmen like Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer.

“But it’s hard to imagine Shaq ever re-upping with the Lakers. Even though doing so would provide his best chance for another ring, the personal differences he’s had with Kobe are beyond being peacefully reconciled. Also, Shaq’s ego is too gargantuan for him to willingly accept playing a subservient role, and the most minutes he’d be given would probably be about 20 per game.

“But, then again, Shaq is always full of surprises.”

I’ve assumed that one of the driving forces behind Shaq today is wanting to catch up to Kobe in championship ring count. It’s not just that Shaq wants a ring, it’s that he wants at least as many rings as Kobe Bryant. Obviously, teaming with Kobe again in Los Angeles isn’t going to do that.

Shaq has a well earned reputation as a fun guy, but he has an unfortunate habit of burning bridges and leaving a ton of scorched earth when he leaves a place… Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami.

Kobe and Shaq Friendly All Stars

However, Shaq didn’t defame Phoenix, and Shaq hasn’t badmouthed Cleveland.

In other words, there is real evidence that Shaq has grown — not in weight but in perspective and maturity.

Kobe and Shaq Allstar MVPS

Take for example Kobe and Shaq as teammates on the 2009 Western All Star squad. That worked out pretty well for them, for the West, and for the NBA.

Even casual basketball fans were fairly up to date with the goings on of this feud, and to see the two together like this was inspiring.

And frankly, just the kind of inspiration the NBA could use about now.

With Cleveland still burned about LeBron’s classless departure, and Toronto now confessing Chris Bosh’s sins to the world, the NBA could use a feel good story about now.

But drama aside, I think Shaq to L.A. would be a fantastic idea for the NBA, the Lakers, and for Shaq.

This is Shaq’s best chance to go out strong, to go out a winner, to go out with the stature he’s earned over the course of his career.

But Charlie, I would start Shaq and bring Bynum off the bench.

Bynum’s promising potential has yet to be realized thanks in part to his injuries, but but also because of his immaturity. As a result, Bynum has rarely played up to snuff when he shares the floor with Pau Gasol.

Besides, between fragile Bynum and elderly Shaq, whoever starts will likely be decided by attrition anyway.

But just drink in a moment the possibilities of this depth chart:

PG: Fisher, Blake, Brown

SG: Bryant, Barnes

SF: Artest, Odom,

PF: Gasol, Ratliff

Ce: O’Neal, Bynum

Kobe and Pau would have an awesome ensemble to play with on the starting unit, with Bynum not getting in the way of Gasol in shots.

And Coach Phil Jackson would have tremendous flexibility with the second unit, where Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum would be primary scoring options in the context of the offense. Bynum would grow more in that circumstance than being the 3rd option behind Bryant and Gasol.

The question is if Bynum has too much of an ego to accept a role on the bench. Lamar did it; and he’s got a better resume than Bynum, so I hope that would be okay for a year.

Look at it this way, Shaq:

Returning to the Lakers isn’t just your best chance to get a ring, but to retire on top, and take down your former teammates in the process: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Zyndruna Ilgauskas.

Surely THAT has to be as good as matching Kobe in ring count!

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