Suns (6-3) at Kings (4-5)
Scoring: Kings tied for ninth (99.8), Suns fourth (100.9).
Shooting: Kings second (48.9 percent), Suns first (49.7).
Scoring defense: 28th (105.2), Suns 18th (98.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 25th (46.8 percent), Suns 19th (45).
Rebound differential: Kings tied for 10th (plus-1.4), Suns ninth (plus-2).
A few weeks ago in Phoenix was one of those times. Very relaxed in a courtside seat after a Suns shootaround, he was detailed on several topics. Some of the thoughts were used for the story in the paper today. Some were in the previous blog post that he and teammate Grant Hill are hoping to buy the Orlando Magic after retiring. One or two other parts are being held back for future use.
*He does not rule out a return to the Lakers as a free agent in the summer of 2010 on a one-year deal to back up Andrew Bynum. (On the other hand, he says he doesn't want to go somewhere as a backup, but it's hard to imagine him at starter's minutes for a contender in two seasons.) The L.A. scenario is far off in ways that have nothing to do with the calendar -- owner Jerry Buss would have to sign off on it, and people close to Shaq know the breakup was so contentious that Buss might be the tougher sell than Kobe Bryant. But O'Neal, at least, is open to the possibility.
*He does rule out Sacramento. Try to hide your disappointment.
*He ranks Kobe-Shaq as the best tandem in Lakers history and puts himself somewhere between third and fifth on the list of all-time greats at center throughout the league.
The transcripts, again with some topics removed to avoid repetition and some moved around for future use:
On nearing retirement -- or not ...
Question: Do you view this as the twilight of your career?
Answer: I wouldn't call it the twilight. I know I've got 735 days left on my Phoenix lease. I'd like to at best get two (championships), at worst get one. I have a lot of options as to what I'm going to do after, but I don't really think about it. When I made the statement, ''I've got 735 days left,'' it was just me, like, really getting in that, ''OK, (man). You got two years to get two or two years to get one.'' I've got to be really, really focused this year and next year. And after that, we'll see what happens.
Q: Do you feel confident that you'll do both years?
A: Yeah. I've got to. I'm going to do both years. Unless I get waived or something.
Q: Then you get two years of money.
A: Yeah, exactly. I'm going to do both years.
Q: There's no way you retire before?
A: Because I made myself a promise to finish. And I've just got to finish.
Q: What do you think happens after two seasons?
A: I don't really foresee myself doing the backup thing. I've got a lot of options. Law enforcement. Buying a team. Running a team. I don't really look that far ahead. When it comes, then I will attack it.
Q: You wouldn't want to go somewhere as a backup, like (Dikembe) Mutombo was or (Patrick) Ewing was?
A: I don't. Depends on what happens here. If we win, nah. Because you know, I'm very arrogant. If I win, I got to keep it like that. I've got to be remembered like that. I always said to myself, ''When Jordan took that last shot in Utah, that would have been the best retirement story in the history of all retirements."
On a soap-opera reunion ...
Question: Could you see yourself having a final season in Los Angeles? I know you love it there. I know the relationship hasn't always been good with the team, but you've been saying a lot more nice things lately. Could you see yourself going in there in a situation that you play 16, 18 minutes a game?
Answer: I don't want to answer that now because it would be unfair to Mr. (Steve) Kerr (the Suns president). I don't want to answer that. But who knows. I don't like to think that far ahead, but anything could happen.
Q: Has it entered your mind, finishing your career as a Laker?
A: No. I always sit back and think, ''Who's going to retire my jersey?'' And I don't know, to tell you the truth. I don't know if it's going to be Orlando, L.A., Miami. I don't know.
Q: Where do you live?
Q: Where else?
A: I'm selling my Miami one. And that's it.
Q: You don't have a place in L.A.?
A: No. I sold (four) days after I was traded. July 18 (2004). I sold it to the guy who's known as the Chinese Rod Stewart. For real. I don't even know his name, but they said he's like the Chinese Rod Stewart.
Q: I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
A: It's a good thing. He's a famous rock star.
Q: Would you rule out going back to the Lakers?
A: I don't know. I don't really think that far ahead. I know I've got two years left, and then at the end of the two years, I'll just look at all my options.
Q: But if you're feeling good, you'd like to keep playing?
A: Yeah, if I'm feeling good. If I'm feeling like I can still do double-double, then I'll play.
On playing for the Kings ...
Question: Would you go to Sacramento as a backup and be a tutor to Spencer Hawes?
Answer: Who's that?
Q: Their first-round pick last year.
A: Oh, I didn't know that. That's his name? Can he play?
Q: Apparently in time.
A: In time. Spencer Hawes? No.
Q: You wouldn't go to Sacramento?
A: No reason.
Q: It's not a Kings thing or a Sacramento thing?
A: No. Never. I love Sacramento, love the Kings, love the Maloofs. I love Mama Maloof. What's her name? Colleen? Yeah, I love Mrs. Maloof. But, no. I'm a tropical big man. I like tropical weather. Think about it. Orlando. L.A. Miami. Phoenix. Tropical.
On the historical context of the pairing with Kobe Bryant ...
Question: Do you feel like if you had stayed, you would have won more championships?
Answer: Probably. Most likely, yeah. Most likely. Definitely.
Q: But you don't regret that you missed out on those championships?
A: I didn't miss out because I got one more (in Miami in 2006). If I would have stayed there and we'd have had some key pieces around us, then we could easily have got it done.
Q: Could you and Kobe ever have existed together or did you have to go your separate ways?
A: Yeah, we could have. We never had a problem. We never had a problem. I swear to God. On the court, we never had a problem.
Q: Don't even say that. Don't even try.
A: It's just that I'd say stuff, he'd say stuff. I think it was all designed by Phil (Jackson). Because if you think about it, Phil never called us into the office and said, ''Both of you all, shut the (heck) up.'' Never did that in four years. He knew that when I read something, I was going to get upset. And he knew Kobe was going to always come out and play hard. So I think it was all done by design.
Q: You think he just wanted to light a fire under you guys?
A: Yeah. I think that's exactly what it was. I think it was all done by design. Really. He never called us in a meeting and said, ''Shut up.'' And basically, it was never a face-to-face... thing. It was always, he'd say something to you, I'd say something to another guy, I'd say something to you. That's all it was.
Now that I look back on it, that (stuff) was kind of fun. It really was. It was kind of fun. ''What did he say, what did he say?'' I tell people if we would have had a reality show, we'd have had the No. 1 reality show in the world. It was fun. It was actually fun. (Brian) Shaw would be, ''Oh, man, why did you say that?'' And then Karl (Malone) would be like, ''Yo, that was (messed) up what you said.'' Then we'd try to outdo each other in the game.
But while we were trying to outdo each other, the two best players in the game, we're outdoing everyone by far. (Heck), if he was open in the lane, I wasn't going to say, ''(The heck with) you, Kobe.'' I would still drop it off. But it was actually fun. And not only was it fun, we'll always be remembered as the best Laker one-two punch. I'm going on record saying we're the best Laker guard-center punch. You heard it from me. Ever.
Q: That's getting into pretty rarefied air.
A: I don't care. We were the best Laker one-two punch ever. The most exciting, the most controversial and the best. Period.
Q: Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain.
A: Yeah, but I don't know what they did. I don't know how many championships they won.
Q: Magic Johnson and Kareem.
A: What'd they get, five championships together? Pretty good. They were pretty good. But, hey. I'm going on record. This is my opinion. This is just me. Kobe and Shaq was the best, most exciting one-two punch in Lakers history. That's just me. Despite what went on or what you think went on. That's what I think.