Dwyane Wade Hopes to Motivate Shaquille O'Neal to Actually Care About This SeasonDoes this sound vaguely familiar? "Probably this year more so than any year I have been more vocal with Shaq, talking to him and trying to motivate him. But the main thing is Shaq has got to be self-motivated. He has got to be willing and ready to do it. Even though he is not getting the ball as much as he wants, we need him to help lead this team in other ways, whether it's rebounding the ball or passing the ball the way he knows how to pass." Is that a recycled quote from the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant feud? Nope; those are the words of Dwyane Wade, who is finding out what Bryant discovered several years ago: O'Neal's desire and commitment do not match his imposing size and (now rapidly diminishing) physical gifts.
Let's see: O'Neal feuded with Penny Hardaway because O'Neal wanted to receive the lion's share of the credit, he feuded with Bryant because Bryant actually wanted him to get in shape (and because O'Neal wanted to receive the lion's share of the credit) and now Dwyane Wade finds it necessary to publicly question--to "call out" as people like to say--O'Neal. The funny thing about this is that after O'Neal left L.A., he briefly did everything that Bryant had wanted him to do: he got in shape, played defense and accepted a secondary role on offense that better suited his current capabilities and the growing skills of his superstar partner. Now, O'Neal has the one extra ring that, in his mind, validates his position vis a vis Bryant and the Lakers and he apparently has decided to mail in the rest of his career--while collecting $20 million per year.
It is likely that even if O'Neal were in great shape and highly motivated that he could no longer dominate on a night in and night out basis. That is not the point; the point is that O'Neal could often get away with cutting corners when he was in his prime but this does not mean that he was right to do so or that Bryant was wrong to urge him to work harder. Somehow I doubt that Wade's comment will be viewed as a distraction, as proof that he is a bad or selfish teammate (he's not, but neither was Bryant when he spoke the truth)--or even as evidence that O'Neal should be working harder. People will likely just dismiss the whole thing by saying that O'Neal is old, that he's had a great career (which is true) and that time has passed him by.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:16 AM