Shaq: Sixers are rebuilding the right way

Posted: July 11, 2014

AT FIRST, no one believed he was actually on-site. Hundreds of campers crowded the burgundy bleachers. Most waiting with glee, hoping the "big man" would finally arrive.

Shaquille O'Neal was a part of a panel yesterday at the Reebok Classic Breakout at Philadelphia University, accompanied by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns swingman Gerald Green, rapper Jadakiss, DJ/producer DJ Drama, and MTV personalities Sway Calloway and Lil Duval.

O'Neal showed up late to the party, and Calloway even had to tell some of the campers in attendance to go find the big man.

"Hey, DJ, cut the music," Calloway said with a slight chuckle. "Any of y'all see Shaq? You don't? Oh, now he's coming? It's OK, guys; you know he does everything slow."

But jokes aside, O'Neal talked confidently about the Sixers' rebuilding plan and the foundation general manager Sam Hinkie has set in place. He could remember his time with Orlando in 1993 when the Magic missed the playoffs. He said some teams are only a few pieces away sometimes.

"They're on the right track, but they are two big pieces away or three to four nice pieces away," O'Neal said.

"For us in Orlando, we had three big pieces in 3 years: me first, Penny [Hardaway] the second year and then Horace Grant the third. That would be similar to what Miami did when they had Dwyane Wade, having a big three. In Philly, you have [Nerlens Noel], who's going to do great on defense; the young guard Michael Carter-Williams, he's playing well. Now you need one or two more role-playing pieces, so you can start to build like [the Oklahoma City Thunder] did."

O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, 15-time All-Star, and league MVP in 2000, was the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He enjoyed a 19-year pro career, from 1992-2011 following three seasons at Louisiana State University. The 7-1, 325-pounder averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks

Now 42, O'Neal is a national analyst for TNT, a minority owner for the Kings since 2013 and an actor. But even with all his NBA success, O'Neal thinks that the way the Sixers are stripping the franchise to the bone and rebuilding it from scratch will be successful.

He said that not every NBA team is immediately successful and that it takes time to build a winning franchise.

"Build through the draft, free agency, trades, making moves. You have to be really aggressive or semi-aggressive, or just wait," O'Neal said. "But [the Sixers] are in the right spot. It's chess, not checkers. A lot of teams want instant gratification, but there are only a few franchises that have done that and been successful at that."

Wilkins, the Hawks' vice president of basketball operations, was less certain about the Sixers' game plan, with Dario Saric and Arselan Kazemi playing overseas and rookie Joel Embiid likely out for at least much of the season recovering from a foot injury.

He said that when it comes to injuries to big men, it depends on their drive to get back on the court.

"It's hard to say until draft picks are on the floor playing," Wilkins said. "You can come out as a highly sought after athlete, but that has to translate to the NBA game.

"There is a stigma on big men [with this kind of injury]," Wilkins said of Embiid. "But it comes down to how bad they want it and how hard they work to stay healthy at this level."

" @TylerRickyTynes

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