Shaq: Joe Johnson ‘Not a $20 Million a Year Guy’

by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

During his 19-year NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal never shied away from voicing his opinion on other players. Now that he’s retired from the League, his new job is to express that very opinion (often, in critical form.)

Asked by the Times-Picayune for his thoughts on the current labor war, Shaq puts the blame on the team owners, and uses Joe Johnson as an example of the kind of atrocious contract that has put the NBA in the mess it finds itself in:

“They are stalling us out,” O’Neal said. “All the issues they are talking about on TV, those aren’t real issues.” O’Neal said the owners are partly to blame for the league’s current financial woes. The NBA announced last spring that 22 of the league’s 30 teams lost money, including the New Orleans Hornets which have been owned by the league since last December.

O’Neal said a number of owners have overspent to keep players on rosters despite incurring significant revenue losses. O’Neal points to the Atlanta Hawks’ decision to re-sign guard Joe Johnson to a six-year, $119 million contract in July 2010 as a prime example of a franchise overpaying for a player when they not bringing in significant revenue to offset the costs. “I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy,” O’Neal said. “Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.” O’Neal said the league’s current lockout only hurts the fans, especially if it jeopardizes the entire 2011-12 season.

He’s only saying what everyone who follows the NBA already thinks, but the difference is that — with very few notable exceptions — TV talking heads are usually too afraid to do so.

I’m fairly confident that we’re going to enjoy Shaq’s television career — though not all NBA players might feel the same way.