By Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing
In one of the stranger reports you'll read about the NBA, ESPN is reporting TNT's Inside the NBA analyst Shaquille O'Neal is under consideration to replace Otis Smith as the new Magic General Manager. That's right, Shaquille O'Neal. Magic GM. Chris Broussard's report goes as far as to say Shaq will at least meet with the team next week in Orlando in what isn't described as an "interview" but sounds close to it...
O'Neal, who began his legendary NBA career in Orlando, may meet with the Magic as soon as next week, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. While he has no front office experience, the Magic believe O'Neal's presence within the organization could help them retain Dwight Howard.
Magic officials declined comment Wednesday night when asked about meeting with O'Neal, telling ESPN.com's Marc Stein they will not be publicly discussing the process or timetable of their GM and coach searches in the wake of Monday's dismissals of Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith.
This makes zero sense for several reasons. For one, Chris Broussard and his sources don't have the best reputation amongst national reporters as being airtight. Secondly, Shaq's history with the Magic is just behind LeBron James' relationship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in terms of bad NBA breakups. Shaq left Orlando high and dry when he ran to the Lakers as a free agent, where he eventually won a few titles. And finally, The Big Aristotle also has no front office experience. Maybe he thinks he can't do worse than Michael Jordan, which is a valid argument.
ESPN also reports Shaq's name being mentioned is directly tied to keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando, which is chock-full of delicious irony on every single level. The Magic bending over backward for Dwight Howard after the Favrian drama of this past season is just asking for more misery. Then of course there's the fact that Shaq himself was the original Superman to leave Orlando when Dwight Howard was in elementary school. Now that I think about it though, hiring Shaq as GM and then losing Dwight Howard anyways would be just about the most fitting end to this quagmire.
In a separate column, Stein reasons the Shaq to Orlando move is unlikely. t's hard to envision Shaq leaving TNT for a front office job after one year in much the same way Urban Meyer left ESPN to go coach Ohio State. However, their media career paths have been quite similar to this point. Both were heavily promoted and hyped acquisitions. Both were and have been relative disappointments. O'Neal has had his moments on TNT, but too often he's just taking up space. It's not that he's been bad, it's that he hasn't met the high expectations. Sometimes he can be funny, sometimes he can be insightful, but most of the time it falls short of the lofty Inside the NBA standard. Honestly, from what I've seen, Shaq has been rather average on TNT in his rookie year on television.
With this report now widespread, TNT needs to have O'Neal address it on the air. Even if it's as much of a pantomime act as Urban Meyer's "denials" about the Ohio State job, TNT owes it to the audience to have Shaq say his piece. TNT isn't scheduled to have another game until Monday, so they have plenty of time to plan how to answer ESPN's report. With Shaq's creativity and personality, I'm sure they can find a unique way to do it.
UPDATE 5/24 5:00 p.m. EST: Shaquille O'Neill has declined an invitation to interview for the general manager position with the Orlando Magic, according to ESPN.