While the Suns visit MSG tonight for the first time since Mike D’Antoni bolted Phoenix for Broadway, the Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi considers the possibility of C Shaquille O’Neal joining the Nets….as player/owner?
Imagine the Nets finally giving up their Brooklyn fantasy and moving to the Rock with one of the all-time greats in uniform. Imagine Shaq, after he decides to retire, staying with the franchise as a part owner, his smiling face on billboards and his hulking frame sitting in courtside seats.
The thought has certainly occurred to O’Neal, who already is heavily involved in real estate ventures in the city and has a strong interest in getting involved in the business side of the sport.
“Yes. Yes. Yes,” O’Neal said in a phone interview when asked if he wanted to get into ownership when he retired.
And if that team could be the Nets …
“It’d be nice — real nice,” he said. “I know the area, I know the people, it’s close to New York. Every organization needs two things: a great place to play and a couple of marquee players. You have that, and it’s a no brainer.”
So the player who can rescue the Nets for New Jersey is not LeBron James, the free agent everyone wants in 2010. As long as this team stays on this side of the Hudson River — and few outside the organization believe they’re getting to Brooklyn any more — James is not signing here, no matter how chummy he is with part owner Jay-Z.
Last November, the night before the Suns played the Nets at the Meadowlands, Shaq attended a Devils game at the Rock and got the grand tour from Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
“I heard they were billing it as the No. 1 arena in the world, so I wanted to see for myself — and I agree,” O’Neal said, talking on a cell phone as he rode on the Suns team bus. “The place is great.”
He said he told Vanderbeek that night that, if he needed anything at all for the arena, he was prepared to help. You can bet that Vanderbeek saved his number and remembered the promise.
You can bet that anybody serious about keeping this team in New Jersey should rely on one of the most popular players of his generation, and that Shaq is ready and willing.
“I have no idea why the Nets aren’t playing there,” Shaq said. “It makes no sense. I know they’re trying to get to Brooklyn, but if I was the general manager or the owner of that team, I’d be playing in Newark right now.”