The always humble Shaquille O’Neal, in today’s Seattle Times, commenting on Miami’s pursuit of free agent G Gary Payton.

His team has been gutted this summer, with two starters going elsewhere, several new faces joining the organization and more moves certain in the coming weeks.

Shaquille O’Neal, though, isn’t the slightest bit worried about his Miami Heat ” and reiterated yesterday that his team will be a championship contender this season.

“A lot of people are probably worried that we’re starting over. … It won’t be a problem at all,” said O’Neal, whose Heat lost to Detroit in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season. “Everybody’s going to be on the same page. We’ve got to get farther than we did last year, and we will.”

With starting point guard Damon Jones gone to Cleveland, the Heat needs backcourt depth. O’Neal is interested in bringing in free-agent point guard Gary Payton, 37, the longtime Sonics star who played last season in Boston.

Payton, a nine-time All-Star, joined O’Neal in Los Angeles two years ago to chase his first NBA title. The Lakers missed by losing to Detroit in the 2004 Finals.

“We would love to have Gary down here,” O’Neal said. “Gary’s 36, 37 years old, but he’s still tenacious on defense and I know he still wants one [title]. And I’m the only guy in the world that can get him one.”

In the event the entire Western Conference was eliminated due to an act of God or terrorism, it would be hard to argue.