New uniform, same Shaq.
It took Shaquille O'Neal a mere 22 minutes to show how several NBA norms remain the same despite his recent change of address. Specifically, he can still dominate Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo, and his touch around the basket is as good as his foul shooting is poor.
O'Neal had 17 points and seven rebounds Sunday night in his debut for his new team, looking surprisingly nimble and quick for such an early point in the preseason as the Miami Heat opened the NBA's exhibition slate with an 85-75 loss to the Rockets in Houston.
Following a summer in which he endeavored to get in shape, O'Neal — listed at 325 pounds — didn't have any dunks and didn't even draw a sellout crowd. But what he did do, and the manner in which he did it, was certainly enough to validate the hopes of Miami fans whose excitement level has gone off the charts thanks to the team's huge offseason addition.
"My expectations are very high for this team," O'Neal said. "I'm here with good guys, a fun group to be around, and they seem to be very hungry. They had a good run, they were only missing one piece. Hopefully I'm that piece."
O'Neal gave a hearty handskake to Yao prior to the opening tipoff, then recovered from a shaky start — getting scored on by Yao and losing the ball the first time he touched it on offense — to make three consecutive shots.
Wearing a new number, 32 instead of 34, and clad in black and red rather than the familiar purple and gold he donned for the Los Angeles Lakers, one of O'Neal's best moves came in the second quarter when he deftly ducked under Yao's outstretched arm to gently bounce a shot off the backboard. The ball rolled around the rim and off, but O'Neal's timing was perfect as he was right there to tap it back in.
Yao had 10 points and five rebounds for Houston, and Tracy McGrady scored 10 points in 18 minutes in his Rockets debut.
After the game, the Rockets left for a 15-hour flight to China, where they will play the Sacramento Kings in a pair of exhibition games.
WARRIORS 97, KINGS 79: At Sacramento, Calif., Mike Dunleavy scored 17 points and the Golden State Warriors opened the preseason for new coach Mike Montgomery with a win. Troy Murphy scored 15 points, and Jason Richardson had 13 points and nine rebounds for Golden State. Derek Fisher, who signed with the Warriors as a free agent after eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, scored 12 points. Dale Davis added seven points and 12 rebounds.