The Bucks don’t have a center on the bench to back up Andrew Bogut.
Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t have a job, and his asking price for 2010-11 may be coming down.
If Bucks GM John Hammond doesn’t already have Shaq’s agent on speed-dial, what’s he waiting for?
Bogut’s coming off his first All-Pro season but he’s also rehabbing his mangled right paw and the Bucks still have Bogues on medical watch from the serious lower back problems that forced him to miss half the 2009 season. Whether the Bucks prospects live or die with Bogut’s health is still a little unclear given the roster changes this summer, but nobody’s going to take them seriously in the playoffs if Bogut’s not healthy in April and May. They need a veteran big to help them manage the health of their 25-year-old star through the NBA’s 82-game ordeal.
Shaq meets and exceeds the job requirements, no doubt about that, and he “knows somebody” at Bucks HQ — coach Scott Skiles and The Diesel have been pals since their playing days on the early 1990s Orlando Magic. It wasn’t always that way in Orlando — Skiles, Shaq and Larry Krystkowiak were the combatants in one of the NBA’s more infamous practice brawls — but the mutual respect between Shaq and Skiles was pretty well documented during the Bulls-Heat playoff series’ in 2006 and 2007.
The Diesel doesn’t have much left in the tank, but if Bogut can stay relatively healthy (there’s that “if” again) the Bucks don’t need a full time center — nor do they need Shaq to resemble the center who was 3rd team All-Pro with the Suns just 18 months ago. They only need Shaq to be better than the two guys who manned the post against the Hawks last spring, Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric. Sitting on the bench in street clothes, Shaq would be more valuable to the team and to Bogut than KT and Gadz.
The only real questions, then, are money and desire. The Bucks can’t really afford to pay him much more than the veteran minimum. Setting aside the money question, if Shaq wants to play, and wants to play for Skiles and add to his legacy by helping one of the games rising young centers, Milwaukee is the place for him to be.
For the full story on the Shaq-Skiles-Krystkowiak melee, check out Chris Sheridan’s definitive account from a few years back when Krykstkowiak was coaching the Bucks. Sounds like Larry got the worst end of it.
Just when it was safe for Bucks fans to come back in the room, the elephant wakes up.