The larger-than-life figure that teased and tormented the Sacramento Kings for so long is now the biggest name to join the franchise’s new ownership group.
The Kings announced Monday that Shaquille O’Neal has acquired a minority stake in the team under new owner Vivek Ranadive. The Kings will introduce the four-time NBA champion at a news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.
During the height of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal fueled the rivalry with the Kings with his play on the court and his personality off of it.
O’Neal handed Sacramento its biggest blow by rallying the Lakers from a 3-2 deficit to win the 2002 Western Conference finals, which is still a sore spot for Kings fans. The 7-foot-1 center even labeled the franchise the “Sacramento Queens” and accused fan favorite Vlade Divac – whom he referred to as “she” at one point – of flopping.
O’Neal was a 15-time All-Star and the 2000 NBA MVP.
O’Neal, now 41, has worked as an analyst for TNT the last two seasons.
O’Neal is the latest high-profile former player to join the Kings this summer after the franchise nearly moved to Seattle. Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was hired as a consultant to Ranadive – who bought the franchise from the Maloof family in May – and Mitch Richmond is part of the ownership group.
The group includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who is friends with O’Neal. The two partnered in the past to build several gyms during O’Neal’s time with the Heat.
PACERS: Paul George has no intention of leaving Indiana.
Larry Bird is spending most of his time these days trying to sure the budding star sticks around for the next few years.
The team president left Monday’s annual Pacers Foundation golf outing so he could continue negotiating a long-term deal to keep George in town.
“We’re talking, but we’ve got a ways to go. That’s where I’m going now, back to work,” Bird said.
George, Bird’s first-round pick in 2010, has made significant strides each of the past two seasons. He went from bench contributor as a rookie to full-time starter in 2011-12 to his first All-Star game appearance last season, when the Pacers fell one win short of reaching the NBA Finals. Last season, George averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists during the regular season, and was even better in the playoffs while also emerging as one of the league’s top defenders.
His reward was being named the most improved player in the league last season.
“I know Paul wants to be here, he’s told us that a million times, and we want him to be here,” Bird said when asked if George’s comments could cost him some extra cash. “But you know a kid’s worth and it comes down to what he’s accomplished on the court.”
HEAT: Signed guard Larry Drew II, making him the 18th person on the roster for training camp with the two-time defending NBA champions.
Drew II is the son of Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew.
Drew II finished his college career at UCLA, after transferring from North Carolina. He started all 35 of his appearances for UCLA last season, averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 assists
GRIZZLIES: Hired Elston Turner, Duane Ticknor and Shawn Respert to join the returning Bob Thornton as assistants on new head coach Dave Joerger’s staff.