S_knight8 2007-09-10 00:58:18
MIAMI Heat guard Eddie Jones can almost laugh at the comments now.
Three years ago, Shaquille O’Neal in his biography criticized Jones for
being selfish and not producing during key moments when they were teammates
with the Lakers. Now that a more mature O’Neal is joining the Heat, look for
a positive relationship.
“At times when you’re young, you make brash statements,” Jones said
Wednesday after the Heat’s Summer Jam at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I think
[O’Neal] made a lot of statements that he didn’t believe. It’s quashed. I
don’t say much else about it.”
O’Neal referred to Jones as “our slash-and-burn shooting guard.”
The book also questions Jones’ ability to compete in clutch situations.
Referring to the 1998 loss to Utah in the playoffs, O’Neal says Jazz guard
Jeff Hornacek “was killing Eddie Jones” and that he could tell Jones didn’t
want the ball in important stages.
Jones said O’Neal had phoned shortly after the book’s release to clear the
air. Jones thinks the comments were a result of his demanding a trade in the
middle of the 1998-99 season.
“When a guy like myself asks to be traded, then guys are going to be upset,”
Jones said. “It wasn’t like I was traded because that’s what they wanted to
do. I was traded because I asked to be traded. When I was there, [O’Neal] was a lot younger. He was very immature. I think over the years, and having
a coach like Phil [Jackson] around made him grow up, and he became dominant
and became a true leader on that team.”
Jones, who averaged a team-high 17.3 points last season, has already deemed
O’Neal as the No. 1 option. The next hurdle is chemistry, because the
offensive plan changes and they need to adjust to the omissions of Brian
Grant, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, the players traded for O’Neal.
“I don’t think he’s going to cause problems,” Jones said. “I don’t think the
chemistry is going to be bad. Everybody on this team already knows that
Shaquille is going to get the majority of the touches.”
Jones, who called Grant, Odom and Butler “close friends,” said the price for
O’Neal was hefty, but none made the Heat instant contenders and guaranteed
sellouts at home. He also knows he no longer needs to tell stories in the
locker room about playing alongside a great big man.
“It’s once in a lifetime trying to get a player like this guy,” Jones said.
“You have to take your shot at him and deal with what happens afterward. The
door is closing for a lot of guys. [President Pat] Riley sees it, Stan [Van
Gundy, the coach] sees it.
“We have to go out and try to get [a championship] now.”