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Bryant and O’Neal Take It Coast to Coast

Times Staff Writer

Somewhere to the west, the Lakers opened training camp, but without the 7-foot, 350-pound-plus, three-ring circus of their last eight seasons.

That’s Shaquille O’Neal, who moved the show here Monday in a typical performance, entertaining the press while taking his usual half-dozen shots at Kobe Bryant, although it was nothing compared to last week, when O’Neal called Bryant a “clown” and said, “I’m not the one paying for love.”

With the Heat beginning practice today, O’Neal says he weighs a lean, mean 335. Unlike recent seasons, when he said the same thing, it apparently is true.

Apart from that and the color of his uniform, he was the same Shaq:

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Question: Are you leaving the Lakers with a bad taste in your mouth?

Answer: I’m not leaving with a bad taste in my mouth because I brush my teeth every morning. [Everyone laughs.] Like that answer?

No, of course not, I understand that most of the stuff that’s done in organizations like that one is all business. You got to know how to handle business and you’ve got to know when it’s personal. And it can’t ever be personal. It’s just business so they did what they had to do and I do what I have to do....

The worst thing was leaving my good friends and people I hung out with out there in California. But they all got money so they can jump on a plane.

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Q: How about being the Lakers’ second priority?

A: I really don’t worry about it because this life is not a real life. It’s a job. It won’t last forever. It’s a fun job but it’s not real life.... When I go home, my beautiful kids and my beautiful wife, they let me know I’m priority and that’s important enough.

Q: What do you weigh?

A: I weigh 330,000 pounds. I weigh 335. But Pat [Riley, Heat president] told me he wanted me slim so what I did this summer, I just laid off the weights. No weights this summer. My other summers have been weight, weight, weight....

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Of course, when you get a guy like me with a high number, you automatically equate it to fat. I’ve always been the sexiest seven-footer in the NBA. For 12 years running. But this summer, no weights, all cardio. Got that down to 335 and hopefully by the end of training camp, be 325, 330.

Q: Will you lose strength?

A: Strength is mental and there’s nobody mentally stronger than me. I’ll beat you up right now if you want me to.

Q: Do you regret it didn’t work out with you and Kobe?

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A: No. Not at all.

Q: Does it feel different, being here instead of Los Angeles?

A: I’m the biggest, sexiest guy in every town that I go to. Even when I get back to L.A., I’m going to be the biggest in that town too. It’s just that I’m used to it....

Some people got it, some don’t.

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Q: Are you looking forward to the Christmas game against the Lakers?

A: Believe it or not, it’s going to be just a regular game to me because I have more important things to do on that day.

Obviously, I have to take care of my own children but I have to take care of 5-10,000 other children. Going to the ‘hood, like I always do, and passing out toys. I’m going to bring snow to the neighborhood, as I have. Then I’ll just go and play a game.

Certain things are more important than others and for me, ever since I’ve been in the NBA, on certain days, certain things are more important than the game.

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Like, there are a lot of kids who won’t get anything on Christmas but, hopefully, I can reach, like 5-10,000 with toys. Good toys, not just little bags. I’m talking Sega, bikes, scooters, computers, clothes, sneakers. That’ll be more important to me on that day than any game.

Q: Were you disappointed Bryant told police you spent $1 million to hush up women?

A: It’s not disappointing to me. It’s actually kind of funny to me that I’m down here doing my thing. I’m on the beach, butt naked, trying to hang out, and my name comes out.

I made comments last week. I’m not going to readdress it. It’s not important to me and if it’s not important, I don’t think it’s something that I should address, now or any time in the future.

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But if you sit back and look at everything that’s been going on, everything that’s been said, it’s actually funny.

Q: What do you think of Dwyane Wade?

A: He has the all-around game that all guards should have.... I was downstairs, playing with D-Wade, and he went to the hole and he threw a pass and it hit me in the face.

He said, “You got to catch that.”

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I said, “Well, I’m not used to getting those passes, buddy.”

Q: How did you and Phil Jackson end up?

A: I ended things with Phil on a great note. Phil has never had any problems with me. I’ve never had any problems with Phil.

What you don’t understand is, a lot of that stuff was orchestrated to take pressure off certain people. But I’ve been in this league 12 years, never been in trouble, never had a problem with a coach. We were just sticking up for somebody, trying to take the pressure off somebody and we created other pressures.

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A lot of you guys don’t know that but I’ve never had a problem with Phil and Phil has never had a problem with me. If Phil told me to do something, I always went out and did it.

Q: So you were the fall guy?

A: Yes. Now, you’re thinking. Right.


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