Lakers don't express much surprise over Shaquille O'Neal becoming a Celtic
In a move that bolstered Boston's front line and added further intrigue to the team's rivalry with the Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal signed with the Celtics during the off-season. But don't expect much of a reaction coming out of Laker land.
"I don't think it's too weird," said guard Kobe Bryant, who had a contentious relationship with Shaq during the center's time with the Lakers from 1996 to 2004. "I don't really hold too much significance to the fact that he's playing with the Celtics. I don't think Laker fans as a whole are. I don't think it's that big of a deal."
There are plenty of reasons. O'Neal, 38, is at the tail end of his career and brings a very different dimension to the Celtics in a utility role than he did as a dominant force for the Lakers who proved largely instrumental in the the team's championship three-peat from 2000 to 2002.
Lakers guard Derek Fisher acknowledged that he initially was surprised by O'Neal's signing with the Celtics, but the Lakers' rivalry with Boston when O'Neal was in L.A. had lost much of its intensity given the disparity in the success of both organizations. And though it went unstated, O'Neal has had a fair amount of history when it comes to trying to needle the Lakers, including rubbing it in after he won an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006; releasing a distasteful rap song (if you can call it that) targeting Bryant after the Lakers lost in the 2008 Finals; and suggesting at one point that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson intentionally tried getting him to butt heads with Bryant.
"I think they'll greet him normally," Jackson said of fans' reception of O'Neal on Sunday at Staples Center. Some have argued that O'Neal should not have his Lakers jersey retired here even though he led the team to three titles and is fifth on the league's all-time scoring list. "He's become kind of a -- I was going to say comic figure, but not -- but more a familiar person with the commercials and a lot of things that he does." Jackson said. "He's become America's symbol of salesmanship. He's done a good job of doing that. He sells a lot of things."
-- Mark Medina
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