|Thursday, December 12
Lakers respond to O'Neal's verbal attacks
ESPN.com news services
With the Lakers' struggles spilling over into mid-December, in the last week Shaquille O'Neal hasn't hidden the fact that he's fed up with some of his teammates' play.
According to reports Thursday, some Lakers are now openly wondering why O'Neal is deriding others' play when he has said nothing to them directly, and whether he feels any responsibility himself for the Lakers' 9-14 record or the nine losses they suffered when he wasn't on the court
Responding to O'Neal's criticism, guard Derek Fisher told the Los Angeles Times, "He's our leader, he can have his opinion. But he has to be careful not to pass the blame on other guys. When you struggle, that's when you really need to stick together."
After the Lakers' 106-102 loss at Golden State on Tuesday, O'Neal told reporters, "Talk to the (expletives) that ain't doing nothing. Don't talk to me."
A week earlier, O'Neal said he wanted "eight guys out there with me who want to play."
He said none of this in the locker room or on the team plane, however, leaving teammates to wonder why he's resorted to public finger-pointing. A few weeks ago, they were absorbing similar barbs from Kobe Bryant.
"That's the easy way out," guard Brian Shaw told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I mean, at least 10 of the guys on this team were on the team last year, and probably six from the year before and the same six from the year before that. So these are the same guys that have gone to war with Kobe and with Shaq for the last three years when we won the championship.
"And to say that now we're not doing our part or whatever, I don't think that's right. But they have a right to voice their opinion. And when we win and (O'Neal) is holding up his MVP trophy, and they're saying, 'Kobe's the best all-around player in the league,' everything is fine."
"When we lose, we all lose as a team as well," Shaw said.
O'Neal's teammates could point to the fact the losing began while O'Neal was recovering from foot surgery he delayed until Sept. 11. Or they could point to his lack of conditioning and his lack of mobility on defense, which cost them on several plays late in Tuesday's loss to the Warriors.
For now, they simply would prefer he keep his criticism behind closed doors.
"He's man enough. He can come to whoever he's directing it at and say it to their face," Shaw told the Daily News.
Robert Horry said the Lakers' superstars are just as culpable as their teammates.
"At certain moments, they ain't been (good)," Horry said. "And if the two big dogs want some fresh meat around, that's their prerogative. But the rest of us, we're going to do what we need to do to make the team better."
"Hell, if it was up to me, I'd trade both of them. Send one to Memphis and one to Utah," Horry said with a laugh.