How Shaq's Arrival Can Be More Than Publicity Stunt for Sacramento Kings

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How Shaq's Arrival Can Be More Than Publicity Stunt for Sacramento Kings
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The Kings recently added future Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal to the ownership group.

Despite the fact that he hasn't suited up for an NBA game since the 2010-11 season, there are few current NBA players with bigger profiles, literally and figuratively, than Shaquille O'Neal.

The Sacramento Kings took notice of his status, adding the all-time great as a minority owner of the franchise. However, the addition of O'Neal will bring more to the Kings than just his immense celebrity. 

As someone with years of experience as an elite-level player, the center brings a perspective that virtually no one within the franchise can match. That alone brings credibility as far as today's players are concerned, and it should make O'Neal a valuable mentor to Kings players, particularly center DeMarcus Cousins

But it goes beyond the players. Shaq's knowledge of the NBA and basketball will provide the front office another adviser to bounce ideas off of. He'll be another pair of eyes in the room, bringing a unique viewpoint to mesh with the team's other decision-makers. 

As the team tries to reverse its public perception and make headway on the arena project, the presence of Shaq brings another figurehead to the table. He'll legitimize the new-look Kings franchise and strengthen the image of the organization as it goes forward. 

So while O'Neal is technically only a minority owner, the effect he has on the team should be anything but minor. 

 

He'll Be Part of Personnel Decisions

Shaq wasn't brought in to be the general manager. That's Pete D'Alessandro's job. But O'Neal will be part of the decision-making process when it comes to personnel. 

While the addition of the boisterous O'Neal could potentially create some awkward moments between him and the rest of the front office, his input will be valued. He brings serious knowledge to the table, even if he doesn't have much experience in a front-office role.

Per Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:

Asked if he expects to hear from O’Neal on personnel matters, D’Alessandro said: “I hope to. I’m a believer, much like Vivek, in that open flow of communication, and if someone has a strength, if someone has a perspective, every perspective is good, especially the perspective of a Hall of Famer like him. So I would hope so, yeah.”

Although, as Howard-Cooper points out, even though O'Neal has carte blanche to participate in personnel decisions, he should tread lightly. And knowing Shaq, that hasn't always been his strong suit. 

It sounds good. But knowing Shaq, as many coaches and front offices around the league do, means starting a clock on how long before he throws someone from the Kings under the bus or gives instructions to DeMarcus Cousins counter to what the coaching staff wants. And knowing he envisions himself as a potential general manager of the future, and having once said he didn’t know all the starting centers within his own division as a player, O’Neal may push for moves without having fully scouted or studied.

Ultimately, though, a team in the position of the Kings, without a playoff berth in the last seven seasons, could use his perspective. And Shaq should help provide that "open flow of communication" D'Alessandro refers to. 

The hope is that the two sides can find a happy medium, with O'Neal providing input but allowing Malone and D'Alessandro to do their jobs. 

 

O'Neal Brings Credibility and Marketing to Arena Push

It's no secret that the Kings desperately need a new arena.

Sleep Train Arena is antiquated, and it's time for a serious upgrade. With O'Neal comes credibility that could help get the project pushed through as it makes its way toward the final stages of approval.

Part of that credibility comes from what Shaq's already said about the project, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, which is that it's going to completely revitalize downtown Sacramento. 

It's going to be sort of like a mini L.A. Live, and it's going to be great for Sacramento, especially when they build the arena. ... If we put our heads together and hire the right people, I know that this arena is going to be the best arena in the country.

In fact, O'Neal even came up with a new slogan for Sacramento based on the positive outlook of the arena project.

Beyond that, he can help ensure the arena gains public approval. As it currently stands, the project is facing opposition from a political group petitioning to put the proposal to a public vote. O'Neal could help sway some of the people on the fence, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"He’s a well known, engaging personality with considerable star power," said Doug Elmets, a Sacramento political consultant and veteran of the failed 2006 effort to build a downtown sports arena. "It comes at an important juncture in the effort to build the arena."

The mere presence of Shaq will also increase the stature of the team's ownership. That could also help sway public support for the project, especially if O'Neal is willing to do some campaigning for the project... under one stipulation.

"It’s another demonstration that this ownership group is world-class and is dedicated to world-class entertainment," said Sacramento political strategist Rob Stutzman.

"If he walks precincts in Oak Park, Natomas and Land Park, I think it’s going to go pretty well, as long as he doesn't wear a Lakers’ jersey," Stutzman said with a laugh.

O'Neal probably knows better than to wear his Lakers gear while walking the streets of Sacramento, but his participation in the rivalry between the two teams in the early 2000s brought some lasting memories. Most notably was Shaq's tabbing the team "the Sacramento Queens." 

But as O'Neal pointed out in his introductory press conference, that was all about marketing.

And those marketing skills should come in handy in his position with the Kings. 

 

He'll Mentor DeMarcus Cousins

Center DeMarcus Cousins is the most important piece of the franchise. Not only is the 23-year-old the team's best player, he's also its highest paid player.

After signing him to a four-year maximum extension worth more than $60 million, the Kings need to get the most out of DMC, and O'Neal could help ensure it happens. 

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
 

Even before he signed on with the Kings, Shaq's made it known that he'd like to work with Cousins. Now that he's an official member of the ownership group, O'Neal will certainly get that opportunity.

The future Hall of Famer wants to draw on his experience to help Cousins develop into the player his talents would allow, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.

"I understand everything that (Cousins is) going through," O'Neal said Tuesday. "We have similar backgrounds. I understand everything he's going through, and I speak his language. That's why my conversation with him is going to be easy."

O'Neal mentions his "conversation" with Cousins, and that's exactly what he means. Shaq feels like he'll be able to help Cousins more by conversing with him than by getting on the court with the center. 

"I always tell people the secret to my success to becoming a great player wasn't about working out. It was about conversation," O'Neal said. "So imagine Isaiah (Thomas), who is left-handed, having a conversation with (adviser) Chris Mullin. Chris Mullin was the man. Imagine one of the other guards talking to (minority owner) Mitch Richmond. I've got DeMarcus; I've got all the other big men. They know I know what I'm talking about. It's all about conversations."

"You put all those conversations together, and you get one system and we believe in that system, we master that system, we'll be a hell of a team."

Part of what O'Neal will be talking with Cousins about is altering his mindset. No, he's not necessarily talking about DMC's maturity or temper—he's talking about his mentality on the court.

Typical of Shaq, he also got a nice jab in at Dwight Howard in the process:

I'm going to teach him the same mindset. When you step on the courtI don't like to use the word killbut I'm trying to kill you; it doesn't matter who you are. He has that passion and that ferocity, but I don't want him to be like Dwight Howard with all that laughing and giggling. I want him to be in tear-your-head-off mode.

Even if Shaq provides nothing other than the ability to maximize Cousins' potential, his inclusion in the ownership group will be well worth it.

Of course, his impact on the franchise will reach further than that. 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @SimRisso

 

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