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Scott Howard-Cooper

Despite a reduced role, Shaquille O'Neal has made it clear he wants to stay with the Cavs.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Shaq's desire to stay, Blazers' disappointment and more

Posted Dec 24 2009 6:24AM

• Free agent-to-be Shaquille O'Neal is leaving the wiggle room of saying his summer contract decision will be based on money and the chance for another title, but his preference is clear: He wants to re-sign with the Cavaliers. "Would I like to stay? Yeah, I'd love to stay," O'Neal said. "But I'm a business man and I'm going to take the best opportunity and whatever team has the best chance of winning." The strong leaning is particularly noteworthy at a time Cleveland has reduced his presence like no one has ever minimized Shaq, playing him 22.9 minutes a game in what easily projects to a career low.

• If losing out on Paul Millsap was a disappointment to the Trail Blazers in the summer, it's more like a heartache in the winter, now that Joel Przybilla has gone down to join Greg Oden in 14 feet of center sidelined by knee injuries. Millsap, at 6-foot-8, would hardly have been an ideal replacement, but he and LaMarcus Aldridge could have formed an intriguing double-power forward alignment, with Aldridge the offensive threat and Millsap the dirty-work specialist. All those questions at the time about why Portland would give such an aggressive offer sheet to land a backup, before the Jazz matched to retain Millsap, and look how the Blazers world turned out.

• DeShawn Stevenson: "I think the chemistry is good. We've got to keep working hard and be positive. If not, then obviously we've got to make moves." So even some Wizards are bracing for a shakeup as the false start reaches 10-17, while also saying they want to keep this group together to see what could be if it ever gets healthy. The lack of any actual evidence has not halted speculation that Washington will look for a jolting trade.


• Sacramento coming back from a 35-point deficit in the third quarter to stun, devastate, embarrass, splay -- pick any dooming adjective -- the Bulls is the rare night that cannot be measured in the moment and certainly not in the value of one win in the standings. It's going to be two, three or even four years from now and some King will summon the memory in response to another impossible situation and have the confidence that, actually, there's no such thing as impossible situation. That's when the impact of Monday in the United Center will really mean something.

• One more stun/devastate/embarrass/splay: The Kings were playing for the fifth time in seven days in five different cities and went with Tyreke Evans, Jon Brockman, Jason Thompson, Donte' Greene, Ime Udoka, Beno Udrih and Sergio Rodriguez in the fourth quarter ... and the Bulls still managed six shots the final 10:14. Not six made. Six taken. In the ultimate sign of checking out, Chicago got into the bonus with 7:45 remaining and generated two trips to the line the rest of the way.

• Not to ruin the holiday season for any Dookie, but here comes Tyler Hansbrough. The No. 13 pick following an All-Everything career at North Carolina just completed a stretch with at least six rebounds in five of seven Pacers games, despite missing the exhibition schedule with a shin injury and despite averaging 23 minutes off the bench in the seven outings. Exactly the energy impact Indiana had in mind at draft time and especially meaningful for the playoff hopeful that needs help on the boards. Hansbrough is at 8.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.1 minutes overall, struggling most of all with the 37.7 percent from the field.

• Derek Fisher is, rightly, leading the balloting for individual playoff drama in the TNT All-Decade vote, a category for players who had big games while dealing with personal or physical adversity. That was certainly Fisher in starting a day in New York as his daughter sought treatment for a serious eye ailment, travelling to Salt Lake City, arriving during Game 2 of the 2007 West semis and hitting clutch shots for the Jazz when his mind had to be swirling. But Charles and Kenny mocking the candidacy of Paul Pierce for his injury in Game 1 of the 2008 Finals, at about the five-minute mark of the video from the studio show, is the best clip of all. Smith called it a "fake Willis Reed." Said Barkley: "You shouldn't really say that. But it is true, though."

• Lakers-Cavaliers on Friday is the ultimate Christmas showdown. That's right. Puppet Kobe Bryant and Puppet LeBron James battling for commercial dominance. Oh, and the real Bryant and James are playing at Staples Center. "We let them do all the trash talking," Human LeBron said.

• And to all a good night.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.

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