Wednesday , Jul , 28 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Miami hopes Shaq and Wade are the new Beast of the East

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Shaquille O’Neal knows that the Miami
Heat acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers for one reason, to win
championships. Merchandise and ticket sales will go through the roof, but the
main reason Miami brought in O’Neal was to help get the franchise to the next
level.

The 32-year-old O’Neal, who spent eight seasons with fellow All-Star Kobe
Bryant and the Lakers, will now team with 22-year-old point guard Dwyane Wade,
who had a sensational rookie season with the Heat, who traded forwards Lamar
Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler along with a first-round draft pick to the
Lakers for the 7-1 O’Neal, who has had experience in teaming with star guards.
In his first four seasons in the NBA, O’Neal formed a dynamic duo with
Anfernee Hardaway in Orlando.

Wade, who was selected out of Marquette by the Heat, who lost in six games to
the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, in the first round
(fifth overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft, played in 61 games for Miami during the
regular season and averaged 16.2 points, four rebounds and 4.5 assists. During
the playoffs, Wade participated in all 13 of the Heat’s contests and netted 18
points and dished out 5.6 assists per game.

“I told Dwyane, lets just get it going,” said O’Neal at the press conference
where he was introduced as a member of the Heat. “John Wooden, when I first
met him, I was with Coach Del Brown, he told me, ‘Shaquille, obviously you are
a great player, but being great isn’t about putting it between your legs,
scoring 50 or 60 points. Being great is how you help your other teammates to
strive. That is what being great is about.’ I took that; I have always been
the type of big man that keeps my guys along. Dwyane had it pretty hard last
year because he was a rookie and they started seeing his game. Now it’s going
to open up, it’s going to open up more room for him. I expect him to be the
number one or number two guard in the Eastern Conference because last year he
impressed me. I usually don’t get impressed by a guard, but he impressed me.
Not because of the dunking and all of the stuff that he did, but because he
still kept his guys involved and he still did what he did.

There is not doubting the fact the O’Neal will make it easier for his
teammates. Miami’s opponents will key on Shaq down low, which will help open
up the court for the other Heat players. Wade and 32-year-old shooting guard
Eddie Jones, who averaged 17.3 pints for the Heat during the 2003-04 regular
season, should be able to take advantage of O’Neal’s presence, as both are
capable of knocking down the open jumper and are not afraid to go inside.

O’Neal thinks he can help show Wade how to play with an attitude and a mean
streak that will help the Marquette product as teams focus more on stopping
him.

“Yes, you will see a meaner side (of Wade),” said O’Neal. “I am not going to
come in here and say to do this and do that. It is obvious that the kid can
play. If he needs my advice, I will tell it to him. He has a back up on the
floor, if they foul him hard, they are going to get fouled hard on the next
play down. I am just going to be his big brother. I am not the type to say to
do this and do that. I do not know what it takes to become a great guard, I
know what it takes to become a great team player and he already has that
quality. It is his team, throughout the history of the game, teams have always
belonged to guards. I have never played with a special guard that is special
and he is a special guard. The team is his, I am just here to do my part,
which is to rebound, dominate, play good defense and win. The kid can play,
the kid can play.

Wade will definitely benefit from the extra space that he will see with the
presence of Shaq. The flashy point guard is very quick and athletic and will
be able to use his speed to breakdown his defender for some easy points. The
bottom line is that Wade will be a better player simply because of O’Neal’s
presence on the court.

An 11-time All-Star, O’Neal averaged a career-low 21.5 points and grabbed 11.5
boards in 67 regular-season games for the Lakers this past season.
O’Neal, who has played in 158 postseason contests during his 12-year-career,
finished the 2004 playoffs with 21.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.77 blocks per
game in 22 games.

Even though O’Neal’s scoring production dipped a bit in 2003-04, the
for Magic and Laker still feels that he is unstoppable.

“I don’t see anybody, in any conference that can shut me down,” said O’Neal.
“Any conference, anywhere in the world.”

O’Neal, who was originally selected out of Louisiana State after his junior
season by Orlando in the first round (first pick overall) of the 1992 NBA
Draft, is happy to be back in the Florida area.

“It feels good (to be back in Florida),” said O’Neal. “Believe it or not, I
have always wanted to get a house down in this area on the water, but I have
never really had the chance. Now I have a chance to get a house on the water
and walk naked on the beach. Remember if you take any pictures, I get 20
percent.

The Heat have to be considered one of the top three squads in the East, along
with the world champion Detroit Pistons and Indiana. If O’Neal and Wade want
to takeover the conference, they will need a lot of help from their teammates.
The Pistons and Pacers are clubs that win with a total team effort, which
makes it difficult for a two-man show to defeat them.

Shaq is determined and is ready to team up with Wade to become the new Beast
of the East. No matter what the outcome, it should be fun and exciting to
watch.