L.A. Times: Reporting from Phoenix — Phil Jackson stood in a dim hallway amid a semi-circle of reporters, talking about how difficult it is to box out Shaquille O’Neal, when the topic of discussion emerged from a nearby practice court, pushed his way through the media pack and gave Jackson a sweaty embrace.
O’Neal whispered in Jackson’s ear for a few seconds before walking away and saying, “You know I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Jackson smiled briefly, a hint of catharsis in what had been an odd week of revisiting the O’Neal-Jackson-Kobe Bryant triangle leading up to Thursday’s game between the Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
O’Neal asserted last week in a Sacramento Bee story that the tension between Bryant and O’Neal earlier this decade was “all designed by Phil, because if you think about it, Phil never called us into the office and said, ‘Both of you all, shut . . . up.’ ”
O’Neal distanced himself from the comments Wednesday, telling reporters that, “We won championships, and it would be idiotic of me to say something bad about him now.”
(From time to time, however, O’Neal has criticized Jackson, calling him “Benedict Arnold” after Jackson returned to coach the Lakers, and Bryant, in 2005.)
A few seconds after the embrace from O’Neal, Jackson said he wanted to believe his former center.
“I had no doubt that [article] was something out of context, or whatever,” Jackson said. “We had a great time. We had a great run for four years, five years.”
Then Jackson took off his glasses and mopped his brow to make sure there wasn’t any of O’Neal’s sweat still on his forehead. He was smiling.