Discuss what's going on around the league.
Looks like Shaq is leaving.
LA Times: Shaquille O'Neal doesn't want to play for the Lakers anymore.
most unexpectedly, O'Neal, who is still under contract for two more years, said he no longer wants to be part of the team.
Through his agent, Perry Rogers, O'Neal has demanded the Lakers trade him, a request team management sources say will be granted, if possible.
O'Neal, in a telephone interview, said he had lost faith in the franchise and its general manager, Mitch Kupchak.
The process of trading O'Neal, of undoing the summer of 1996, when O'Neal and Bryant were brought in by then-General Manager Jerry West and eventually won three NBA championships together, will start immediately, and Kupchak undoubtedly will be overrun with offers.
"The direction they're going in, if they're going to continue to go in the same direction, I don't want to be a part of this," O'Neal said.
"This team, it ain't about me. It ain't about Phil. It's supposed to be about team."
Kupchak, who said Thursday he would consider trading O'Neal if that is what he wished, had no comment Friday.
O'Neal, one of the great players in NBA history and the Finals MVP in each of the recent Laker three-peat seasons, has two seasons remaining on his Laker contract, for $27.7 million next season and $30.6 million
the season after. He can opt out of the final year of the contract and become an unrestricted free agent, but is in a bigger hurry to go.
"I wanted to let you guys know, this is something I've been thinking about for a long time," he said. "When I was brought here by Jerry West, there was a team concept. ... It was something I wanted to be a part of. Now no one cares. I told you I'm all about winning championships. Now the organization is different. It seems right now they're trying to pit one person against another."
"Therefore," he said, "I don't want to be a part of that."
By the rules of the NBA collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers would have to take back about as much salary as they trade away, meaning a deal involving O'Neal would be complex and probably involve many players.
Laker management suspects O'Neal is less upset about the direction of the team than the status of his contract extension, negotiations for which weakened months ago. The sides were $9 million apart over the two-year extension, and O'Neal soon will be eligible for a third year, which will put them farther apart.
O'Neal, 32, insisted his disappointment lay in the sway of the organization. Bryant, as an unrestricted free agent, has been the team's focus, the perception growing that it has been ordered by Buss.
Kupchak said Thursday he would not undertake a sign-and-trade with Bryant under any circumstances. (And with Bryant becoming a free agent Friday, that scenario is no longer possible). But, Kupchak said, if O'Neal were to demand a trade he would consider it, allowing, "That would not be a good day in this club's history."
By late in the season, sources close to Buss were suggesting
the owner would order Kupchak to trade O'Neal anyway, which might have led to the slowing in negotiations. While there is no debating O'Neal's on-court value, his contract takes up nearly three-quarters of the team's salary cap, which had made difficult Kupchak's job of building around O'Neal.
None of which has rested well with O'Neal, very proud and unhappy about a number of issues within the Lakers.
"So, I want you guys to write that if any GM out there wants a hard-working big man who wants to win championships, call Mitch Kupchak, because he'll entertain offers," O'Neal said. "My last six, seven years, I want to be on a great team.
"Right now, upstairs in the Laker offices, they've lost the team concept. They're trying to pit people against each other. ... So, obviously, we don't have the same thought process anymore. That's fine.
I know it's a business. I wanted to let you know I think the fans deserve better."