Laments state of game, Shaq does

NEW YORK -- With the NBA’s collective bargaining process over for now and the league facing even greater uncertainty with an antitrust complaint on the table, 15-time All-Star Shaquille O’Neal still believes a 2012 season could happen.

“It’s February or never,” said O’Neal, who was taping a YES Network “CenterStage” segment in New York City on Wednesday to promote his new book, Shaq Uncut. “I’m hoping that because the last one [in 1999] started in February and we played 50 games. In a couple of days, it’ll be December and if we start getting into those days then we’ll be talking about decertifying, and I know that process takes like 30 to 45 days.”

O’Neal said both the owners and players have made strong arguments to support their cause, but where they really need to come together is to not allow maximum contracts to be abused.

“I really think that we need to create a system where the owners are protected from themselves,” O’Neal said. “For example, think of the [owner] whose arena is not really filled up, but the people are there to like a certain [player]. Now [Knicks owner] Jim Dolan, who’s a fabulous businessman, offers [a player] $20 million, but you know as a general manager he’s not worth $20 million. So what do you have to do? Now, you’ve got to match it. That’s the real issue I think because they’re trying to blame us for their bad management. But again, both sides have great issues, but we’ve reached the end where we don’t have a season.”

After O’Neal expressed his opinion on salary management and the season outlook, he reiterated a point that he heard NBA legend Magic Johnson make the other day. “It’ll be possible that we don’t have two seasons,” O’Neal said.

While those words are definitely not what fans want to hear, they will resonate more with the thousands of working class professionals dependent on NBA teams for a living. For O’Neal, that pains him more than anything.

“We all understand what’s at stake, but if you’re making $15 to $20 million, the average guy doesn't understand or really care about the BRI,” O’Neal said. “[President] Obama said it the best, ‘The ushers and the regular people will lose their jobs because these guys couldn't come to a business deal.’ I feel bad for them.”