Was the All Star game a one-time trip down memory lane, or is it possible that it was just an amuse bouche with a meal to follow?
Next season Shaquille O'Neal earns $20 million, and there is no way the Lakers or any other NBA team is going to take that contract on (especially in this economic climate). But what about the 2010-11 season, when he is a free agent, would Shaq be willing to take on a veteran’s minimum contract to back up Andrew Bynum and win rings with the Lakers?
Phil Jackson said All Star weekend he wouldn’t mind having Shaq back, and he can see a role for him.
``We know that there's always a chance you'll have an opportunity to have a player like that,'' Jackson said, a wry smile coming across his face. ``I was thinking about Robert Parish coming and playing one season with the Chicago Bulls. Playing a limited role, but being an influence on a team when he's 40 years old.
``So, we always say these old crocodiles, these alligators that patrol the lanes, have a long life span.
``So it would be great to see him back someday and, you know, coaching him.''
There are a few little problems with this idea. And by little problems we mean Mount Everest-sized issues. All of them tied to Mount Everest-sized egos.
First, would Shaq want to play as a backup? For a player know to have motivation issues at times, could he stay focused and hungry playing 15 minutes a night and not at the end of games?
Second, would Kobe allow it? He is the man in Los Angeles, and he has opt-out clauses if he is unhappy. He and Shaq were shaking hands and playing around in Phoenix, but is Kobe really ready to let his former tormenter back in the fold?
Finally, has Jerry Buss forgiven Shaq? This may be the biggest obstacle of all. Remember Shaq ran down the court in a preseason game in Hawaii yelling at Buss “pay me.” Remember he threw Buss under the bus in some of his parting shots when he went to Miami. While Buss may be all about winning, Shaq would not be a key cog but a role player if he came back to Los Angeles, and Buss doesn’t need him. So why forgive him?
Still, it’s a fun fantasy to daydream about. Especially when there are no real games going on.