CLEVELAND, September 30 – Shaquille O'Neal made it clear that LeBron James remains the guiding force of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the 37-year-old big man wants to help bring the superstar playmaker an NBA title.The Cavaliers conducted their first pre-season workout Tuesday with "Shaq" and "King James" together and Cleveland expects to be a formidable rival to the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal’s former club.
Cleveland won a season-high 66 regular-season games but lost to Orlando in the third round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and brought in O’Neal to add size and strength under the basket to compliment James’ playmaker moves.
"It’s all about winning. Nothing else really matters," O’Neal said.
"LeBron has always been a team player. He has always made the guys around him better, so we don’t need to have any conversation at all. We just come and play. We know it’s his team and he’s going to have the ball the most. It’s our job to help him get there.
"It’s his team."
While James has not won an NBA crown, O’Neal has captured four, three of them with the Lakers alongside star guard Kobe Bryant and another in Miami with Dwyane Wade after leaving the Lakers following ego conflicts with Bryant.
"I was a different player," O’Neal said. "Kobe said it the best – we had two Alpha males on the same team. I never really looked at it like that. Of course, when I was with D-Wade I was a little older.
"Now I am a lot older so it’s going to be different."
When he arrived at Cleveland, O’Neal said it was his goal to win "a ring for the King" and three months later that remains his goal.
"I have four under my belt and it would be nice to get five, but I just want to come play and just have my name left somewhere in history," O’Neal said. "And it will be – win or lose."
James said he never asked 2008 US Olympic gold medal teammates Wade and Bryant what it was like playing alongside O’Neal, saying their relationship would grow and develop naturally.
"It’s a teammate. It’s not like I adopted a kid or something," James said. "I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be great. … I’ve dreamed about playing with some of all the greats.
"To have him a part of this franchise, to have him be a part of my team is going to be great."
Missing from Cleveland’s first practice session was guard Delonte West, whose unexcused absence came in the wake of a recent arrest for concealed handgun possession, one for which he faces a November court date and possible NBA punishment if found guilty.
West was treated during last year’s training camp for bipolar disorder and went on to have his best NBA season, averaging 11.7 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game.
"You always hope he’s doing well, but I have to continue looking forward and coaching this team," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.