To the general populace, talk might be considered cheap, but to new Sacramento Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal, talk is invaluable. O’Neal plans on using conversations with Kings center DeMarcus Cousins as part of his plan to hone the 23-year-old’s game.
Early in his career, O’Neal was lauded for his ability to dominate the box scores, but denigrated for his inability to win a championship. O’Neal cited sporadic conversations with Hall of Famers as the secret ingredient that finally helped him win three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat.
“I was putting up big numbers and couldn't win anything,” O’Neal told USA Today Sports. We'd get swept by Utah every year, and then all it took was one or two conversations. One time I heard Larry Bird say, 'You're the greatest big man ever.’ It's just conversations. We're going to have nice, light-hearted conversations. I'm going to teach him one or two things that I think he can do better.”
Now a legend in his own right, O’Neal hopes to mentor the talented, but enigmatic Cousins as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. Cousins has a chockfull of talent that could make him one of the premiere centers in the league, but his focus could certainly use some fine-tuning—last season, the Kings imposed a two-day suspension on Cousins for conduct detrimental to the team.
With Shaq taking Cousins under his wing, it could give him that extra mental push and drive to be great. Cousins has all the physical tools, but O’Neal wants to impart the knowledge that will equip him with the intangibles.
"I'm not going to try to change his game—I like his game,” said O’Neal. But he's the leader on our team, so I'll talk to him about leadership and good examples. I'll talk to him about doing things a certain way and doing things consistent. First thing I'm going to say to him is, 'How many points do you want to average?' And hopefully he says 26 or 27, and I'm going to show him an easy way of how to get that and get it every night and expect it and want it and go for that every night. And then I'll also have a conversation with him about how to make his teammates better.”
As a member of the Lakers, O’Neal was bitter Western Conference rivals with the Kings in the early 2000s, going as far as calling them the “Queens” during the height of the rivalry. Now as a minority owner, O’Neal hopes he can help turn Sacramento back into the playoff contenders that he remembers.
“I would like to see Sacramento back where it used to be," said O’Neal.