Quick noon update: The Heat announced today that it will retire Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32 jersey at the start of next season, even though his relationship with the Heat did not end on good terms.
The Heat traded Shaq to Phoenix because he wanted out and he criticized the Heat initially after leaving. (More on that below). But there has been a thawing out in the relationship, and Shaq has praised the Heat in recent years.
“Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a HEAT uniform,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship. Retiring his number in the rafters, along with Heat greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.”
Shortly after his trade to Phoenix in 2008, Shaq said how much he enjoyed playing with his new team.
"I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys," O'Neal told the Boston Globe at the time. "We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again."
Quinn is now a Heat assistant coach.
O'Neal said at the time that defenses would sag off of Quinn and Davis and he wasn't able to get the ball.
Riley responded by saying of Shaq: "It's sad that he says those things. We shared so much here, together, for three years, good and bad, 3½ years. I just think it's sad that he's got to do that....
"When you're 9-40, we're all frustrated. I mean everybody's at fault; we all were. Everybody was feeling bad and nobody wants that," Riley said.
"He didn't want to be there, he didn't want to play for that kind of situation, 35 years old. He wanted to go to a contender and we sent him there. We sent him to Utopia and we're left here with the carnage and I don't know why he's not happy."
Riley also defended veteran trainer Ron Culp (now retired) and the team's medical staff, saying O'Neal was out of line to diss them.
"It's really a shame that he would insult those people like that because they gave him care. They cared," Riley said. "They didn't kiss his butt. They cared about him. He can do whatever he wants to do to me. That's OK, I don't care. But those men, they tried. ... That upsets me more than anything."
Of Riley's comments, O'Neal said colorfully, "I don't [care] how he interpreted it."
Reminded that reporters couldn't use the quote because of the expletive, he said, "Sure you can. You can quote me, brother. You can put an 's,' then the tic-tac-toe, the 'at' sign and then the other symbols."
O'Neal played 3 1/2 of his 19 NBA seasons with the Heat, and Dwyane Wade and Shaq helped lead Miami to the franchise's first NBA title in 2006.
O’Neal is still Miami’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (.596) and ranks third in scoring average (19.6), fifth in blocks (384), seventh in free throws attempted (1,708), eighth in offensive rebounds (621), ninth in double-doubles (84), 11th in total rebounds (1,856), 12th in defensive rebounds (1,235), 12th in field goals made (1,612), 13th in free throws made (786), 14th in points (4,010), 14th in double-figure scoring games (191), 14th in starts (203) and 15th in field goals attempted (2,703).
Among the Heat's all-time postseason leaders, O’Neal ranks second in dunks (116), fourth in free throws attempted (315), fifth in double-doubles (15), fifth in double-figure scoring games (37), fifth in 20-point games (16), sixth in field goals made (312), sixth in total rebounds (361), sixth in offensive rebounds (110), sixth in defensive rebounds (251), sixth in blocks (59), seventh in points (751), seventh in free throws made (127), seventh in games started (40), eighth in field goal attempts (531) and ninth in minutes (1,311).
O'Neal will become the four player to have his jersey retired by the Heat, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Michael Jordan (who never played for the Heat). The Heat previously honored former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino but said his jersey is not retired by the organization.
A six-pack of notes on a Monday night:
### Dolphins receiver Greg Jennings continued making the radio rounds today, and this time there was a new twist to his contention that too many restrictions were placed on Ryan Tannehill last season.
“I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do,” Jennings told the team-owned Finsiders.com. “He wants some more freedom.”
Though Tannehill has never come out and said it quite that directly, he did tell me last October that he essentially asked Bill Lazor to give him more power to audible, but that Lazor wanted to do things his way.
Jennings implied that new coach Adam Gase will be good for the quarterback in that regard, adding: “He’s been hand-held his entire career.”
Exactly how much freedom Gase will give Tannehill remains to be seen. CSNChicago.com reported this past season that Gase, as Bears offensive coordinator, gave Jay Cutler “limited audible latitude.”
Jennings, by the way, is at serious risk because of a $5.5 million cap number that shrinks by $4 million if he’s cut. Jennings told Pro Football Talk last week that the Dolphins haven’t told him if he’s being retained.
### Latest mock draft of note: ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Dolphins picking UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves with the eighth overall selection in the first round.
McShay’s take: “At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Hargreaves has adequate size to go along with outstanding suddenness, body control and deep speed. He thrives in man-to-man coverage, and with Brent Grimes turning 33 this summer, Hargreaves would be a good fit in Miami. The other option would be Oregon DE DeForest Buckner if free-agent-to-be Olivier Vernon leaves town.”
McShay has these players going in the picks directly after Miami: Buckner, Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
The players McShay has off the board before No. 8: Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Cal QB Jared Goff, Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz, FSU CB/safety Jalen Ramsey, Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley and Mississippi receiver Laquan Treadwell.
### The Super Bowl was watched by 111.9 million viewers, on average, making it the third most-watched program in U.S. TV history, behind the last two Super Bowls. But citing other Nielsen numbers, CBS said 167 million watched all or part of the game, the highest number in U.S. TV history.
And we’ve certainly seen this before: Miami-Fort Lauderdale was last among 56 metered markets with a 38.1 rating for the game on CBS-4. That means 38.1 percent of Dade/Broward homes were tuned in, still an awfully big number but smaller than 55 other major markets.
The top five metered market ratings for the game: Charlotte (55.9), Nashville, Tenn. (57.7); Albuquerque, N.M. (56.9); Norfolk, Va. (56.8); Greensboro, N.C. (56.7).
### Speaking of ratings, Sports Business Journal reported that Heat games on cable (Fox Sports Sun) are averaging a 4.42, fifth-highest behind the Cavs, Spurs, Warriors and Thunder.
### Erik Spoelstra said he’s likely to stick with the same starting lineup Tuesday against the Spurs, meaning Amar’e Stoudemire at center. Hassan Whiteside is listed as questionable with an ankle injury but will come off the bench for a fourth consecutive game if he plays.
Whiteside obviously would like to have played in the fourth quarter against the Clippers but didn’t take the bait when pressed by a reporter from another publication.
“Coach is going to make the decisions he’s going to make, and I just go onto the next game,” he said today. “I can’t control that. He’s the coach. Coach is going to make his decisions. I’m going to just block shots, rebound and dunk.”
Asked whether his relationship with Erik Spoelstra is good, he said: “I don’t know what our relationship is,” before quickly adding, “Oh, we’re fine.”
Whiteside said he was healthy enough to play in the fourth quarter against the Clippers but his ankle “hurt when I woke up [today]. I looked down and was like, ‘Whoa, my ankle swelled up on me.’”
If you missed it over the weekend, check out my in-depth piece on the concerns the Heat privately has with Whiteside.
### After Josh McRoberts missed 26 games with a bruised knee, he played 16 and 18 minutes in his first two games back. But he logged just three and nine the next two, and none at all the past two.
“He’s healthy and definitely still on my radar,” Spoelstra said today. “I just went a different way the last two games.”
Two seasons after making 36.1 percent of his three-pointers and sinking 105 of them for Charlotte, McRoberts is just 3 for 24 on threes this season (.125)…
Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber call Tuesday night’s Heat-Spurs game for TNT.