Source: Shaq Prefers Spurs, Wants to Play Two More Seasons
The source spent time Wednesday with O'Neal in the Orlando area, where the legendary free-agent center makes his offseason home.
The source said O'Neal said the Spurs and Atlanta are at the top of his list since there is interest with those teams on both sides. FanHouse's Tim Povtak reported Monday the link between O'Neal and the Hawks, and there were indications from San Antonio on Wednesday that the Spurs do indeed have interest.
O'Neal also is interested in Boston but the source said he realizes the Celtics don't have much interest in him. A source confirmed to Povtak on Wednesday that, while the Celtics have great respect for Shaq, he would disrupt their chemistry.
"He'd really like to go to San Antonio and team with Timmy (Duncan), and try to win one more title,'' said the source about O'Neal, who starred in high school in San Antonio.
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford declined comment.
The source said O'Neal, 38, plans to play two more seasons and then retire. He wants there to be a farewell tour in 2011-12, which he expects would be his 20th and final NBA season.
"He wants to sign a two-year deal,'' the source said about O'Neal, who made $21 million last season with Cleveland. "And then the second year will be a farewell tour. He can tell a team that you would sell out all 41 games (that season).''
That strategy might come in more handy with the future Hall of Famer possibly trying to convince Atlanta to offer him more than the midlevel exception of about $5.8 million. While the source said O'Neal would go to San Antonio for the midlevel, he said his preference if he joined the Hawks would be to get more money than that. The Hawks would need to make a move to have more than the midlevel, with one possibility trying to do a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers.
One thing is for sure: the source said Shaq won't return to Cleveland.
"He thought it was OK,'' the source said of the one season O'Neal spent with LeBron James there. "But he won't be back.''
The source said O'Neal, who won titles with the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and Miami in 2006, looked Wednesday to be in "good shape'' and that O'Neal still looks as if could contribute to a championship team. The source said O'Neal is going to let the free agency process play out and doesn't expect any deal to get done immediately. Players first can sign Thursday.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @chrstomasson