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Celtics Notebook

Shaq cries foul on some GMs for bad business practices

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 24, 2010

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WALTHAM — Calling himself a “business-minded basketball player,’’ Shaquille O’Neal said yesterday he perfectly understood the concerns NBA commissioner David Stern expressed about the financial viability of some of the league’s struggling small-market teams and whether contraction might have to be looked upon as a possible solution to improve the league’s overall profitability.

With the labor agreement between the league and the players set to expire June 30, Stern said he was hoping to reduce player costs by at least $700 million and that the league would “continue to be open to contraction.’’

While Stern did not single out any franchises, a team source indicated that Charlotte, Memphis and New Orleans might be among the small-market cities in jeopardy of losing their teams.

“I can tell you there are some franchises that I know of that are not making money because they don’t have the players, and in the economy that we’re living in, I understand,’’ O’Neal said. “But also general managers have to start taking responsibility, too.’’

O’Neal questioned whether some GMs were making prudent decisions when it came to payroll.

“Some of these guys they’re paying $20 million to . . . If I’m running the business and my payroll’s too high and I’m not bringing enough money in, then that’s me,’’ O’Neal said. “It’s not the owner, it’s the general manager or the [chief financial officer], because they have to take some of the responsibility because it’s their payroll. I know there are franchises not making money.

“This franchise, the Lakers, Orlando and Miami, we don’t have to worry about it, because we’re still under the cap. But other franchises, they don’t have that and I understand that.’’

As an example, O’Neal cited his trade from Phoenix to Cleveland June 26, 2009, for Sasha Pavolic, Ben Wallace, cash, and a 2010 second-round draft pick (Dwayne Collins) after making $20 million with the Suns in 2008-09.

“I was traded from Phoenix because of payroll, not because I wasn’t a good player,’’ he said. “They were able to take $20 million off the cap and that was understandable.

“Again, some of these general managers have to look at themselves, too, because if their team isn’t making money, then what did you do wrong?’’

Starting at center
When he signed with the Celtics, Shaq predicted that an O’Neal would be in the starting lineup, hedging his bet with the fact the team had also signed Jermaine O’Neal. Yesterday, coach Doc Rivers indicated that Shaq, who practiced with the first team, would likely draw the start at center in Tuesday night’s opener against the Miami Heat.

Jermaine O’Neal, his left wrist still wrapped with a bandage, worked with the second team and engaged Shaq in a spirited practice.

“They’re both playing well,’’ Rivers said. “J.O. just missed so much time and he got so far behind, but he’s getting it.’’

Asked if he felt neither player particularly cared who got the start, Rivers said, “I think they care. I think at the end of the day when we decided, are they going to be able to live with it? But they’re going after each other and I love it. It think it’s good for practice.’’

No statement
With so much being made about the Celtics’ opener against the Heat, Kevin Garnett downplayed any notion that it was a statement game.

“Too early for it,’’ Garnett said. “It’s the first game of the year. Nothing’s a statement at this point. It’s Game 1.

“You want to establish home. You want to play well. You want to continue to do the things you’ve been doing and I think for us, for the most part, it’s sharing the ball, moving the ball, [having] good chemistry. We just got to continue to ride that wave.’’

When it was suggested the Celtics might come to be viewed as America’s Team in the opener — because the Heat have been vilified for anointing themselves the prohibitive favorites to win the championship — Rivers joked, “That night, maybe.’’

“I don’t even look at it like that,’’ Garnett said. ““They have a decent team on paper, and just because ESPN, Fox, Comcast, whoever or whatever anoints paper champs, it doesn’t mean anything, because you still have to go out and play.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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