Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson did not talk Thursday, but Shaquille O’Neal did.
The former Laker center took aim at his former boss, responding to Buss’ unfavorable comments on O’Neal’s weight with a sneer and a stream of observations about the Lakers and their owner, none of them flattering.
Before shooting a commercial in Miami with Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, O’Neal bristled when told by reporters that Buss had said he did not regret trading O’Neal because the All-Star center had been in poor physical shape at training camp in recent seasons.
Said O’Neal, while sitting in a director’s chair at American Airlines Arena: “I don’t regret him losing money and not making the playoffs.”
O’Neal told reporters he also didn’t like Buss’ observation that O’Neal needed to be traded to get into better shape. O’Neal, who sometimes weighed in at 370 pounds last season, was listed at 325 in this season’s Heat media guide.
“I didn’t need motivation,” O’Neal said. “I needed a real owner, like Micky Arison. Not a guy who parties with girls that are three times [younger]. When you are 60, hang out with 60-year-olds, not 20-year-olds. That is all I got to say about Jerry Buss.”
Not quite. After the assembled media pack broke apart, O’Neal motioned to a reporter from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for one final thought.
“Jerry Buss needs to retire because his comments, like his decisions, are dumb as hell and make no sense,” O’Neal told the reporter.
Laker spokesman John Black declined to comment on O’Neal’s statements.
Buss, in an in-depth interview session Wednesday in Los Angeles with media members, answered 20 questions about Phil Jackson and the Laker coaching search before being asked if he regretted trading O’Neal.
“Not at all,” Buss said. “He’s 60 pounds lighter in Miami than he was in Los Angeles. And as you’ve probably gathered recently, he seems to be having some [health] problems. My reaction was, if he was not willing to get in shape, which he had five, eight years, some number of times to do, and we urged him. It seems that the motivation for him to lose weight was to trade him.
“As you know, Shaq is in his middle 30s and it might be difficult to build around him. I suspect if I had known he was going to lose 60 pounds I probably would have made a different decision.”
O’Neal, 33, has been slowed recently by two bruised thighs but said he would be ready for the start of the Heat’s second-round playoff series against the Washington Wizards or Chicago Bulls.
Meanwhile, Jackson and the Lakers came no closer Thursday.
Buss boarded a late-afternoon flight to Hawaii without talking to his former coach. The Laker coaching job has not been offered to Jackson, although they are expected to talk as early as today. Buss returns next week from Hawaii and leaves May 15 for a six-week trip to Europe.
By day’s end, another team had entered the Jackson derby. The Sacramento Kings, after winning only one playoff game with an underachieving roster, contacted Jackson’s agent, Todd Musburger, a league source said Thursday. Musburger could not be reached for comment.
The Kings join the Lakers, New York Knicks and, more remotely, the Portland Trail Blazers as teams interested in Jackson. The Cleveland Cavaliers were told Jackson was not interested a few days after conducting a conference call with him last week.