I caught up with Shaquille O'Neal after he had finished eating his appetizers at a midtown restaurant (Zocalo) earlier tonight, and he was his usual charming, teasing self. For anyone who might have slept throughout the day Monday, the Kings old Lakers nemesis is joining the Kings ownership group headed by Vivek Ranadive. The dinner was hosted by Ranadive - his arm in his sling because of shoulder injuries suffered in his recent bicycling accident - and attended by minority owner Mark Mastrov (Shaq's close friend), head coach Michael Malone, consultant Chris Mullen, and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
The former Lakers star, who famously tweaked Kings fans with his hilarious verbal digs about Queens and flopping and Rick Adelman and poetry during the spectacular Western Conference finals in 2002 - all of which I write about in Tuesday's print edition of The Bee - sounded serious about mentoring Cousins, who was seated to his left, and planned on spending significant time in Sacramento. He also said he remain with TNT and continue as an analyst on their award-winning studio show.
As for the reaction of Kings fans who will never forget 2002? Their arch rival is impossible not to like. It's only a matter of time before Shaq is completely embraced by the community, say, one press conference and 24 hours or less.
Cousins, who is negotiating a long-term contract extension that is expected to be finalized within the next week or so, is in tremendous shape. He clearly has lost a substantial amount of weight since his involvement with the U.S. national team late July in Las Vegas.
Ranadive is wearing a sling on the shoulder he injured in his recent bicycle accident. Originally, the Kings majority owner thought he sustained only facial abrasions and a large gash on his back. Further tests revealed a broken shoulder.
While the ownership group, Shaq, Cousins, etc., conducted business in a private room in the back, assistant coach Corliss Williams walked in and ordered a takeout dinner. With his family remaining in Arkansas for the first year, he is renting a loft near 18th and L. He had no idea about the ongoing events in the back ...