It’s not that Shaquille O’Neal walked onto the Staples Center court in a different uniform. That’s something he’s done while wearing Miami Heat black and red, Phoenix Suns purple and orange and Cleveland Cavaliers wine and gold. But those sights weren't as jarring as seeing him play in the building where his career peaked wearing the green of the despised Boston Celtics to rile up Laker fans.
They greeted Shaq with boos and cheered when Derek Fisher stripped the ball from him on an early shot attempt. About the only satisfaction Laker fans could take on a day the Celtics won, 109-96, was that at least O’Neal didn’t score any points in the process. O”Neal didn’t get to dunk, run downcourt and yell, “I built this [expletive]!” as he did the first time he came back to play in Staples on Dec. 25, 2004.
O’Neal said this visit felt, “Pretty much the same. I’m too old to be looking into all that other stuff.”
It’s partly because, “When I was here, we never really had the opportunity to get the Lakers-Celtics thing going. We were worrying about Portland and San Antonio and Utah and all of that stuff.”
To him, Lakers vs. Celtics means: “We’re two great teams, just trying to get the same thing.”
One thing that’s different from the way things were when Shaq wore the home gold: he’s not in a battle for control of the team.
“It ain’t my role to score and do all that stuff,” he said. “When I met with Doc [Rivers], I told him I was fine with that. It’s all about winning. I’ve got 28,000 points so I’m good. It’s not my role to carry the team when we’ve got three guys that can score.
“As long as we win, nothing matters,” O’Neal said
He walked out with a W…and he walked to the team bus with his kids, who were brought to the game by is ex-wife, Shaunie.