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O'Neal briefly weighs in on Jackson

LAKERS REPORT

December 26, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Shaquille O'Neal has given two or three interviews since undergoing knee surgery Nov. 19, but the one he gave Monday, brief as it was, pretty much crystallized his current-day thoughts on Lakers Coach Phil Jackson.

O'Neal was nudged by Jackson in the past for weight and free-throw issues while wearing Lakers colors, but he really didn't like Jackson's observation Sunday that O'Neal "didn't like to work" when he was with the Lakers.

"How can Benedict Arnold be reliable in what he says?" O'Neal replied as left the Heat locker room after the Miami Heat's 101-85 victory Monday over the Lakers.

O'Neal barely broke stride as he said it and did not elaborate, although it's not difficult to pinpoint the long-term source of his irritation: Jackson's reunion with Kobe Bryant and, beyond that, the Lakers.

League rules state that players must make themselves available for post-game interviews only if they play, making O'Neal immune from further comment after missing his 21st game since sustaining torn knee cartilage.

Jackson, who tilted in favor of O'Neal over Bryant in his best-selling tell-all book that came out more than two years ago, had already spoken to the media by the time O'Neal delivered his comment Monday.

On Sunday, Jackson thumped O'Neal's work ethic as a Laker.

"The only person I've ever had that hasn't been a worker in the fortunate times I've been coaching is probably Shaq," Jackson said. "He's the one guy that didn't really like to work. I know Pat [Riley] got him working here in Miami. We had a hard time getting him to work. All the other players -- Michael [Jordan], Scottie [Pippen], Dennis Rodman, all those guys that we had, Horace Grant, they're all hard-working practice and personal work players."

An hour before Monday's game, Jackson revealed he had tried to contact O'Neal after the Heat won the league championship in June.

"I sent a message through his people," Jackson said. "He was saying how happy he was, it was the greatest and everything. I told him not forget, sometimes it's easy to overlook how happy he was in 2000, 2001 and 2002."

Jackson wasn't overly surprised by O'Neal's happy comments.

"Love the one you're with," Jackson said, smiling.

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Jackson was in critique mode in other areas before the game, picking at one of Dwyane Wade's signature moves.

"He travels on that spin move," Jackson said. "He picks up that pivot foot ... everybody knows it. Dwyane Wade can cover so much ground when he makes that move. As you know, he can go 20 feet with that spin move and get to the basket."

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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