Cavaliers free agent center Shaquille O’Neal, a Newark native, told The
Post he would consider the Nets as a destination this summer —
intrigued because they now reside in his hometown.
O’Neal, the Cavs "other" free agent, praised the new Prudential Center
as being an NBA hotspot and said he would rather them not move to
Brooklyn in 2013.
"I think it’s better than most arenas, I think it’s one of the best
arenas in the country," O’Neal told The Post following the Cavaliers’
stunning second-round elimination against Boston on Thursday night.
"Hopefully they can stay there forever. I don’t know what’s going on
with the Brooklyn situation, but it says a lot for the city of Newark."
O’Neal has real-estate investments in Newark and is also intrigued in one day being a part-owner of the Nets because they now are in Newark. But he would want them to stay there. Shaq had long wondered why it took so long for the club to move to his hometown. Last season, while with Phoenix, he attended a Devils game at Prudential Center and got a grand tour by the owners.
O’Neal said he is happy to see the Nets have a new owner in Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
"It’s great that they are in Newark and have a new owner," O’Neal said.
O’Neal said two years ago in a published report on Nets’ ownership, "It’d be nice — real nice. I know the area, I know the people, it’s close to New York."
O’Neal, who missed nearly the final seven weeks of the regular season with torn ligaments in his thumb, did not have a good postseason in a starting role. His addition as one of the final pieces to a championship puzzle ultimately backfired because he didn’t mesh well with LeBron James.
Nevertheless, the 350-pound O’Neal could make a good backup center to young Brook Lopez and show him the ropes as he nears retirement.
"I’ve got a lot of options," O’Neal said. "We’ll just see. I still got to sit down and look at all my options. I don’t want to comment on [the Nets]. It’s too early."
But Shaq, at 38 the NBA’s oldest active player, wants to keep playing a few more years.
"Of course. I missed 360 games due to injury in my career so by my calculations I still have 3.7 years left," O’Neal said. "That means I’m going to play until I’m 41. I’ve missed a lot of games, so I still feel I can play."
Perhaps O’Neal became the victim of the vaunted Sports Illustrated cover jinx as he graced the cover this week with the headline: "Win a Ring for the King." It didn’t happen and now it’s doubtful Cleveland will re-sign him. He was slow on defense in the Boston series and got eaten up in Game 6 by Kevin Garnett. In the playoffs, O’Neal averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.