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Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2003

O’Neal says feud with Bryant is over

Lakers’ center ends his media boycott, adding, ‘It happened … we just have to move on’

November 1, 2003

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— Shaquille O'Neal ended his media boycott Friday, saying he and Kobe Bryant need each other and he's put the well-documented feud with his Los Angeles Lakers teammate behind him.

"It happens, it's over with, we just have to move on," O'Neal said before the Lakers flew to Phoenix for a game tonight. "He's boisterous. I'm boisterous. I don't take anything personally."

O'Neal hadn't spoken with reporters since Sunday, when he said after practice that the Lakers were "my team," adding that Bryant needed to be more of a team player -- an observation based on two exhibition games last week.

O'Neal sniped several times previously during the preseason at Bryant, who has been ordered to stand trial on a sexual assault charge in Colorado.

Bryant ripped into O'Neal during a telephone interview with ESPN Monday, calling the Lakers' center "childlike," "unprofessional," "selfish," "fat" and "jealous." It was the first overt sign of hostility between the superstars since midway through the 2000-01 season, when their simmering feud went public.

"We just have to move on and focus on what's good for the team," an upbeat O'Neal said after practice Friday. "I wasn't upset. If somebody's used to it, it's us. We know how to have a tough skin.

"In a marriage, if you keep talking about a problem, the problem won't go away. It happened, we just have to move on. If you say something, a person can take things positively or negatively. We both took it negatively."

When asked if he felt comfortable with Bryant as a teammate, O'Neal replied: "Of course. I need him, he needs me, we need each other. He's the yin. I'm the yang. Opposites attract. We're just different. Off the court, he does his thing. Off the court, I do my thing."

O'Neal and Bryant led the Lakers to three straight championships from 2000-2002. They were eliminated last May by eventual champion San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.

Bryant said earlier in the week that he had put the feud behind him, but O'Neal refused comment until Friday.

Then, after beating teammate Karl Malone 3-1 in a three-point shooting contest, instead of avoiding reporters as he left the court, he met them with a smile.

"I'm good, I'm cool today," he said.

Bryant spoke with reporters after sitting out Tuesday night's 109-93 season-opening victory because of soreness and weakness in his surgically repaired right knee and again Wednesday and Thursday, but didn't do so Friday.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he was "pretty optimistic" Bryant would play against the Suns, but a decision wouldn't be made until sometime today.

"He does wear down," Jackson said. "We thought he tired less in this practice than he does in most of them. We'll make adjustments during the game as far as how much time he plays."

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