Shaq: Make the officials the stars

TORONTO — The NBA officials are cracking down, the players union is fighting back, and Shaquille O’Neal threw his two cents in this morning at the Celtics shootaround at the Air Canada Centre. His position on the issue isn’t a huge surprise — “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” — but he said that by going to extreme measures to clean up the game, the league’s defeating the purpose and putting a spotlight on the officials.

“I just think that if you give those guys that much control you might as well start selling their jerseys at Footlocker also,” O’Neal said. “This is an emotional game. I know when I pay the money in different arenas and I take my sons and my daughters, I want to see everything. I want to see them talking smack. I want to see it all. You can’t just cut off an emotional game … You might as well make them stars.

He’s given fans more than a few fireworks, including the 1999 brawl with Charles Barkley. He explained how that actually came about.

“The funny thing is, his mom and my mom have been friends for 20 years. Even though it happened – we really didn’t want it to happen – but it’s like two puppies playing. One puppy bites another puppy, it’s two things you’re going to do. You’re either going to walk away or you’re going to react. So, he hit me with the ball, I didn’t want to hit him, but you had to do something. We were down there wrestling and laughing and after the game we had dinner. We’ve been best friends for a while. So it happens.”

Marquis Daniels will start in place of Paul Pierce tonight. O’Neal will not play tonight, but will play tomorrow in Hartford.

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