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Thursday, July 19, 2001
O'Neal critical of NBA rule changes



Shaquille O'Neal
O'Neal

COMMERCE, Texas -- The NBA's decision to allow zone defenses isn't sitting well with Shaquille O'Neal.

Months before the new rule goes into effect, the Los Angeles Lakers two-time NBA finals MVP said he believes the change will significantly slow things down.

I think it's a stupid, idiotic rule. I think a bunch of old people upstairs need to retire and hire young people if they want to make the game better.
Shaquille O'Neal

"I think it's a stupid, idiotic rule," O'Neal said Tuesday. "I think a bunch of old people upstairs need to retire and hire young people if they want to make the game better."

Designed to improve the flow and pace of the game and reduce teams' dependence on isolation plays, the new rules are being tested during summer leagues. They'll be implemented next season.

O'Neal wasn't keen about the idea when it passed in April, but his latest comments -- made at a basketball camp he's running at Texas A&M-Commerce -- are his most outspoken.

"People want to see Steve Nash's slashing ability and Allen Iverson's crossover. People don't want to see a bunch of lazy asses playing zone defense," O'Neal said.

Other critics have said the league went the wrong way in trying to address its problems -- lower scores, declining television ratings and flat attendance figures.

"People won't want to pay $50 or $60 a game to see that," O'Neal said. "I wouldn't pay to see that. I wouldn't watch that crap on TV. I'd watch the Young and the Restless before I'd watch that crap."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson has said he thinks the changes will help O'Neal defensively by keeping him around the basket with a lot less movement.

Nonetheless, O'Neal is not looking forward to it.

"They need to just stop calling everything and just let us do what we need to do while the people eat popcorn and enjoy the game," he said. "Let guys like Allen Iverson carry their team. Let Steve Nash travel a little bit when he makes that Canadian pass that he does so well.

"It's not going to make the game any better, it's going to make it worse."

The current illegal defense rules will be scrapped, and teams will be allowed to play any defense they choose. The one exception is that a defensive player will not be permitted to stay in the lane for more than three seconds if he is more than an arm's length away from his man. A violation will result in a technical foul.

"I'll play through it a year and see what happens," O'Neal said. "Then I'll go back to the lab and learn how to buck the system."

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