OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD
Barry Warner: Sitting down for a Q&A with Shaq
Before Game 2, when the Rockets looked like the 65-win team, I visited courtside with an old friend - TNT Analyst Shaquille O’Neal. I covered Shaq over 25 years ago when he was playing for Cole High School in San Antonio. A quick Q&A with the big man:
Q: Shaq, as you reflect on your career, what are you proudest of?
A: That a young kid from San Antonio, Texas, a football state, could go on to the NBA and win not just the rings, but meet so many wonderful people. Most of all, that young kids, our future, can look up to me.
Q: What did you learn from your rookie season in Orlando when the Dream schooled you in the 4-0 sweep for the title?
A: I learned a great lesson. If you want to succeed you must be humbled and fail. Always have to learn. We came against the Rockets after beating the Bulls and got manhandled. Dream had four or five moves that were impossible, even at my size, to defend. He was devastating on the block, then would move away so quickly with the Dream Shake. Dream had four or five moves on each shot.
Q: How about your relationship with Yao Ming?
A: At first, I tried to create a controversy, then my father got very upset. He read my fan mail and reminded me that a 14-year-old kid from Shanghai, China named Yao Ming wrote to me several times. We hang out when I am in China and became great friends. It’s cool how two different people from two different worlds became close.
Q: How great could Yao have been healthy?
A: He would have been incredible and eventually the best center in the world. Yao could shoot from outside with touch and played great defense. Had he been healthy, there is no question the Rockets would have won some championships.
Q: Is this series more like the main course compared to an appetizer?
A: This is the series America has wanted to see right from the start of the season.
Q: Do you realize that you are a crossover? Older people knowing you as the NBA star, while the millennials see you as the fun- loving pitch man on commercials, the rapping and acting career?
A: I’m just here to have fun and make people smile.
On the Rockets
So, Andre Iguodala may be held out of tonight’s Game Four. Big freaking deal.
Your home town heroes in short pants are the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players. Harden continues to dribble, dribble until the shot clock goes down. His teammates continue to make turnovers and not defend.
Coach Mike D’Antoni called them soft after getting hit by the haymaker.
The playoffs make and define legacies The Rockets have spent months living up to their promise that this season would be different: They have won more games, defended more effectively, and played with greater consistency than at any point during Harden’s tenure. But now they are down 2–1 with Tuesday’s Game 4 at Oracle Arena, where Curry and the Warriors are undefeated in the playoffs since 2016.
Three seasons ago, the Beard had 13 turnovers in the series ending loss.
And how can we forget Game 6 here last season when he was a no show, acting like a guy from outer space who never played the game, a 39-point drubbing against the Spurs?
Steph Curry’s return to All-World form occurred in the 41-point Game 3 win with 35 points. After getting his groove back, Curry immediately went back for more, torturing Harden with crossovers before stepping back into another ceiling-scraping 3. He celebrated that one in vintage style, breaking into the type of extended shimmy that has long delighted the Oakland crowd and ticked off hoops purists.