Riley responded to O'Neal's criticisms Wednesday with some of his own, saying his former center was wrong to disparage some of his old teammates and trainers in a Boston Globe story.
"It's sad that he says those things. We shared so much here, together, for three years, good and bad, 3½ years," Riley said, referring specifically to the Heat's 2006 NBA title. "I just think it's sad that he's got to do that."
Riley dealt O'Neal to Phoenix before the trade deadline, allowing the 36-year-old center the chance to compete for another title instead of sticking around Miami for a last-place finish. O'Neal made it clear how much he prefers his new teammates.
"I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys," O'Neal told the Globe. "We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again."
After Phoenix's loss to Boston, O'Neal elaborated, saying that defenses would sag off of Quinn and Davis and he wasn't able to get the ball. Of Riley's comments, O'Neal said colorfully, "I don't [care] how he interpreted it."
Reminded that reporters couldn't use the quote because of the expletive, he said, "Sure you can. You can quote me, brother. You can put an 's,' then the tic-tac-toe, the 'at' sign and then the other symbols."
Davis told the Miami Herald after the Heat's game against the Knicks on Wednesday that he didn't believe there were serious issues between the two, though they did appear at times to be frustrated with each other.
"You can't really take stuff personal in the NBA -- you'd go crazy," Davis said. "Shaq's a big guy, whatever. If that's how he feels, that's how he feels. It shows his true colors."
Quinn, in his second year, said in the Herald: "To be honest with you, I don't have too much to say about it. I don't know. But it didn't hurt me."
O'Neal was critical about shots -- as in, not getting enough of them -- often during his tenure with the Heat. This year, he expressed those sentiments in the days that followed a 110-101 loss at Utah on Dec. 3 -- a game where Quinn didn't play and O'Neal and Davis were on court together for 16 minutes, 2 seconds.
He also complained about not getting enough touches two days after going 8-for-15 in a 120-99 loss against Orlando, another game where he and Quinn never were on the court at the same time. Plus, O'Neal got into an argument with Riley during an early season practice, and words got so heated that Alonzo Mourning intervened to keep the two separated.
Keep in mind, O'Neal is the one who repeatedly referred to his Miami coach as "the great Pat Riley" during his time in South Florida. But he also was clearly miffed when Riley pulled him in the first minute of a game at New Jersey earlier this season for blowing a defensive assignment.
Riley said he doesn't have "anything but good feelings for Shaq" and wasn't bothered by any criticism leveled at him. But he said O'Neal has no reason to blame anyone else in the organization for his unhappiness.
"When you're 9-40, we're all frustrated. I mean everybody's at fault, we all were. Everybody was feeling bad and nobody wants that," Riley said.
"He didn't want to be there, he didn't want to play for that kind of situation, 35 years old. He wanted to go to a contender and we sent him there. We sent him to Utopia and we're left here with the carnage and I don't know why he's not happy."
Riley also defended the work of veteran trainer Ron Culp and the team's medical staff, saying O'Neal was out of line to speak poorly of them.
"It's really a shame that he would insult those people like that because they gave him care. They cared," Riley said. "They didn't kiss his butt. They cared about him.
"He can do whatever he wants to do to me. That's OK, I don't care. But those men, they tried. ... That upsets me more than anything."