In the latest episode of NBA on TNT Tuesday, former Laker great Shaquille O’Neal casually admitted on-camera that former coach Phil Jackson would strategically sit him out of regular-season games, as the post-season approached so that they could maneuver the Western Conference standings in hopes of playing an opponent that they favored. This was a shocking revelation considering the fact that the player-coach tandem of Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson was so dominant that they nearly raised four championship banners in just five years together, all while Shaq collected three NBA Finals MVPs, a scoring title, and a league MVP.
During a post-game segment following the Clippers-Nuggets game, the NBA on TNT Tuesday crew broke down the Eastern Conference standings and the potential playoff match-ups that were on the horizon. This prompted in-studio host Adam Lefkoe to ask his co-hosts Dwayne Wade, Candace Parker, and Shaq if the top teams in the East should try to lose games on purpose in order to avoid a potentially disastrous matchup against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently in the seventh seed.
Shaquille O’Neal responded with a yes, stating that it’s a tactical strategy that his legendary coach with the Los Angeles Lakers used from time to time to avoid facing off against one of their biggest rivals at the time, the Utah Jazz.
“I played with a guy in Phil Jackson that did that,” Shaq said. “Notice how when we won all them championships we never had to play Utah, but when [Phil and I] first got to L.A., Utah was the team to beat.”
When Adam Lefkoe pressed the Hall of Fame center with a follow-up question about his shocking revelation, the 15-time All-Star went more in-depth.
“[Phil Jackson would] pull me aside and say, ‘Shaq take these two games off and when you come back I need you to get [40 points]’…the man had a great resume, so I listened and for me, it was like getting rest,” Shaq added.
Scroll up and skip ahead to the 3:40 mark to hear Shaquille O’Neal give context to Phil Jackson’s strategic approach to the NBA playoff bracket.[VIA]