Shaq struck back.
Shaquille O'Neal, responding to Laker owner Jerry Buss' comments in The Times that trading him was the right decision, said Buss was not an "honest businessman" because he did not divulge the real reasons O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat.
"Everybody knows what that is really about," O'Neal told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "He had to make a choice, the young guy or the old guy. He made his choice, and good luck with his choice."
O'Neal rattled off the Lakers' post-millennium accomplishments in response to Buss' assertion he would have made the same decision "100 out of 100 times" because O'Neal's body was wearing down.
"How many years was Phil [Jackson] there?" O'Neal said. "And how many years we went to the Finals? And how many points did I average and how many times was I the MVP?"
The Lakers went to the NBA Finals four times in the five seasons of Jackson's first stint as their coach. O'Neal was the Finals most valuable player in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and averaged 38, 33 and 36.3 points in those series, all of which ended in Laker championships.
"Obviously do all the math and ... everybody knows what that [trade] is really about," he said.
O'Neal also said Buss lied by saying he tried to contact O'Neal after the trade.
"I don't take it personally," O'Neal said. "I haven't said nothing this year, but I am not going to let someone say something about me and then not come back."
Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban also talked back to the Lakers.
Cuban and Jackson have needled each other in the past, the latest volley coming last week when Jackson said the Mavericks' arena was a place "where the owner runs around, pumps up the volume, intimidates the referees and ... has announcers as hired cheerleaders, which is an intimidating force."
Cuban's retort, as told to the Dallas Morning News: "All he did was prove he doesn't know anything about marketing. And he probably should look up in the stands to see whether the fans are having fun, because those are the people who allow him to be overpaid."
Replied Jackson on Sunday, perhaps getting in the final word: "Of course Mark would say that. He can't stand any criticism at all."
Veteran guard Aaron McKie is slowly getting closer to returning to active duty. McKie, who has missed 10 games because of a partial tear in his left quadriceps, said he hoped to begin running later this week.
"I'm bored out of my mind," he said.
McKie, 33, said he hoped to be back within two weeks but could not guarantee it. He is averaging 0.3 points and 0.6 assists in 8.1 minutes.