O’Neal’s unveiling validated AEG’s clairvoyance on his accomplishments with the Lakers. But his statue also represents how he reconciled with the Lakers after he was traded to the Miami Heat following the 2004 NBA Finals loss to Detroit. “The Buss family has done a lot for me and we’ve had great times together,” O’Neal said. “We had a million great times and probably one bad time. The million great times are the times we always remember and the times that count.”
Here’s how the exchange went between Lowe and Shelburne, who is as plugged into the Lakers as anyone. Shelburne: (The trade) was supposed to be Ingram and D’Angelo. That was what the Kings wanted. Lowe: Do you think when push comes to shove, the Lakers do that? Shelburne: No. Actually, I think Jim would’ve. At that moment, I heard he was very in favor of doing the trade for Cousins. (Cousins) is a great player and the Lakers feel like they need a great player and every organization at some level has to have that confidence to say well it didn’t work over there but we can make it work here.
Bill Doyle: George said he wants to remain a Pacer if they’re great, but if not, he’ll talk to front office. Realizes Pacers can’t be great without him.
Even if the Pacers aren’t serious about moving George now, they are racing against the clock while trying to sell the star on an imperfect roster. The rumors will keep coming. “Honestly, that was the easiest part (of the season) because that’s something I didn’t have no control over,” George said. “If I got traded, I got traded. If I stayed, I stayed. I didn’t have no control over it. At the end of the day, I’m going to play my heart out for whatever team I was on.”
Surrounded by a sea of yellow “We Believe” T-shirts and placards, Davis’ dunk became the lasting image of that run. A more tantalizing one, though, never made it out of Mullin’s dreams: Davis and Jackson joined by Kevin Garnett—yes, that Kevin Garnett, still in his prime—to take the step the We Believers had left untaken. “It was basically done,” Mullin says. “I was doing an extension with [agent] Andy Miller on Kevin Garnett’s deal. KG liked Baron enough, and we had talked enough. He said, ‘Yo, I’ll do it.'” A 2007 draft-night three-team deal with the Timberwolves and Charlotte (then the Bobcats) would’ve sent Garnett to the Warriors, Richardson to the Bobcats and picks and talent to the Timberwolves. It fell apart, Mullin says, when then-Warriors owner Chris Cohan dragged his feet and ultimately said no.
Bird knows he is on the clock with George. The Lakers loom as a threat in free agency. The Pacers engaged at least the Celtics, Sixers, Hawks and Nuggets in trade talks for George at the deadline, though they never appeared serious about moving him, per league sources. (Bird has called the George rumors “fake news”). They explored trading Rodney Stuckey for a backup rim protector, including John Henson, sources say, and Bird will dangle Indy’s first-round pick again this summer in search of veteran help. Bird has been aggressive trading picks for Luis Scola and Thaddeus Young. “Our pick is in play,” Bird said.