Shaquille O’Neal has a unique perspective on the rift between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook because he once went through a similar situation himself.
He joined FOX Sports for a one-on-one interview at All-Star Weekend courtesy of his partnership with American Express, minutes before surprising members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana at the NBA Store inside the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans.
FOX SPORTS: So, maybe the biggest story line of the season is the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook situation. What’s your take on that, what do you think is going on there?
O’NEAL: I’ve been in a similar situation. Probably due to lack of communication. I can understand what Russell’s going through. I did the same thing to Penny [Anfernee Hardaway] when I signed in L.A. Me, I felt there was no need to call anybody and tell them what I was doing, and I’m sure Penny was hurt by that. I’m sure that’s what it is. And then Russell’s probably saying, ‘You was my man, but you go to the team that beat us, and you don’t even call me to tell me?’ So it’s just a lack of communication. They were always friends and always tight and always played together. But one lack of communication can cause everything.
FOX SPORTS: Did you have any strained time with Penny after you left Orlando?
O’NEAL: No. I felt I didn’t need to. People make their own decisions based on how they feel.
FOX SPORTS: I wanted to ask you about the Cavaliers. Obviously, they’ve had some injury issues, they just had another one with Kevin Love going down. You think they’ll be all right by the time the playoffs roll around, or is there reason to be concerned?
O’NEAL: They’re built for the playoffs. If they go into the playoffs pretty healthy, they should be OK. But the good thing for them is there isn’t really any team in the East that poses a threat. You think that’s Toronto, but, nah. You think it’s Washington, but, nah. It isn’t like they’re in the West and you’ve got San Antonio, Golden State, Houston; they don’t really have a team that can pose a threat. So I’m sure even without Love, they can beat teams four out of seven.
FOX SPORTS: You think the addition of Serge Ibaka is going to help Toronto at all?
O’NEAL: Oh yeah, definitely. Because when Toronto was very successful, they had the guy … Bismack Biyombo. He was blocking shots, he was rebounding. Serge Ibaka does the same thing, and he can step out and shoot the three. So that’s going to be an added value for them.
FOX SPORTS: Nice, so tell me what you’re doing today with American Express for this community event?
O’NEAL: I’ve been partnering up with American Express for about two years. We urge people to continue to use their credit card to support small businesses, and here we’re just hanging out with the Boys & Girls Club of New Orleans. I’ll go downstairs and talk to them and give them some gifts — spread the love, spread the joy.
FOX SPORTS: Obviously you’re going to go down there and it’s going to be a mob scene. But that’s pretty much been the situation for you for … how long? 20 years? I mean you’re a seven-foot guy, big personality …
O’NEAL: Since 1989.
FOX SPORTS: How is that? What is it like to just go into every situation where everyone has all eyes on you?
O’NEAL: I don’t really think about it, I just always try to focus on kids and just make them smile and make them happy. I remember doing the same thing growing up in San Antonio, going to the All-Star Games, looking at all the players, hoping and wishing that I could be just as good as them one day. I definitely try to take care of the kids. I’m not really worried about the adults, but I always try to take care of the kids.