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Old 01-20-2009, 11:40 PM   #1
gigantes
   
 
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Default "Shaquille O'Neal may be the man to bring New Jersey Nets to the Prudential Center"

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http://www.nj.com/nets/index.ssf/200...man_to_br.html

by Steve Politi/The Star-Ledger
Tuesday January 20, 2009, 8:59 PM


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCould Phoenix Suns All-Star center and Newark native Shaquille O'Neal be taking aim at a future in team ownership -- and the Nets in particular?

The question nags at Shaquille O'Neal every time he visits his home city now, the same way it should nag at every basketball fan in this state. He sees the gleaming Prudential Center in the heart of a community that loves his sport, then shakes his head in wonder and frustration.

"Why," he wants to know, "aren't the Nets playing in Newark?"

On this topic, like everyone else, Shaq is stumped. The Nets should be playing in Newark, and not just for a few lousy preseason games as the team is proposing. And the 7-footer could be a major force in making them -- to borrow his favorite Scrabble word -- a Shaqtastic success.

Imagine the Nets finally giving up their Brooklyn fantasy and moving to the Rock with one of the all-time greats in uniform. Imagine Shaq, after he decides to retire, staying with the franchise as a part owner, his smiling face on billboards and his hulking frame sitting in courtside seats.



The thought has certainly occurred to O'Neal, who already is heavily involved in real estate ventures in the city and has a strong interest in getting involved in the business side of the sport.

"Yes. Yes. Yes," O'Neal said in a phone interview when asked if he wanted to get into ownership when he retired.

And if that team could be the Nets ...

"It'd be nice -- real nice," he said. "I know the area, I know the people, it's close to New York. Every organization needs two things: a great place to play and a couple of marquee players. You have that, and it's a no brainer."

So the player who can rescue the Nets for New Jersey is not LeBron James, the free agent everyone wants in 2010. As long as this team stays on this side of the Hudson River -- and few outside the organization believe they're getting to Brooklyn any more -- James is not signing here, no matter how chummy he is with part owner Jay-Z.

No, the savior already has a Superman tattoo on his chest. Shaq, whose Phoenix Suns will play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight, also is a free agent in 2010. He might be nearing the end of his playing days, but his stature in the sport will never fade.

In Newark, he is more than a basketball player. He is a landowner and entrepreneur who is committed to rebuilding the city. He is part owner of a planned 25-story upscale condo building near NJPAC and understands how the presence of an NBA team would help that investment, too.

Shaq is the type of charismatic figure who could attract money from others, the perfect ambassador for a team that, for too much of its existence, has struggled to captivate this market.

So can Newark make him part of keeping the Nets here? That can only start once the team gives up on Brooklyn, a project that seems less likely each day. Nets CEO Brett Yormark still insists that the team will be playing in Brooklyn in 2011 with a groundbreaking expected this spring, but virtually all the news is bad.

The latest reports have the team scaling back its $1 billion design for the arena and possibly breaking ties with world-famous architect Frank Gehry, the man who made the project appealing in the first place. The Nets insist Gehry is still on board, and said in a statement that they are "working hard to find ways to build a world-class venue in an incredibly difficult economic environment."

The economy also figures to get worse before it gets better in 2009. Owner Bruce Ratner is a rich man, but stock in his Forest City Enterprises, which is saddled with heavy debt, is down sharply. Even he has to run out of patience losing $35 million a year at Izod Center.

"The best thing to do is wait and let it take care of itself," said Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), the state senate president. "With Brooklyn looking like Dorothy from Kansas, they'll have to make a financial decision soon."

That decision should be Newark -- it just makes too much sense. As a kid growing up in the city, O'Neal had to take train trips with his father to the Garden if he wanted to see an NBA game. He never could have never imagined an arena sitting in the center of downtown.

Who could then? But last November, the night before the Suns played the Nets at the Meadowlands, Shaq attended a Devils game at the Rock and got the grand tour from Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek.

"I heard they were billing it as the No. 1 arena in the world, so I wanted to see for myself -- and I agree," O'Neal said, talking on a cell phone as he rode on the Suns team bus. "The place is great."

He said he told Vanderbeek that night that, if he needed anything at all for the arena, he was prepared to help. You can bet that Vanderbeek saved his number and remembered the promise.

You can bet that anybody serious about keeping this team in New Jersey should rely on one of the most popular players of his generation, and that Shaq is ready and willing.

"I have no idea why the Nets aren't playing there," Shaq said. "It makes no sense. I know they're trying to get to Brooklyn, but if I was the general manager or the owner of that team, I'd be playing in Newark right now."

Imagine, the Nets staying where they belong with one of the all-time greatest players helping them become a fixture in his home city. It would be, of course -- to borrow his word again -- Shaqtastic.
i'm not much of a shaq fan but the brooklyn / lebron thing seems pretty bleak at the moment. of course it's pretty-much a lateral move location-wise, but a better facility is a better facility.

right?
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:51 PM   #2
Kiddlovesnets
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Default Re: "Shaquille O'Neal may be the man to bring New Jersey Nets to the Prudential Center"

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Originally Posted by gigantes
i'm not much of a shaq fan but the brooklyn / lebron thing seems pretty bleak at the moment. of course it's pretty-much a lateral move location-wise, but a better facility is a better facility.

right?

Lol let's wait and see if Shaq does become the owner of future NY Nets. I don't expect him to do quite well but I won't be surprised if the Nets turn out to be better than they are right now, considering even the mentally retarded child in my neighborhood could have done a better job than Bruce Ratner as a B-ball team owner.
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