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Shaquille O’Neal bonds over basketball with his TNT analyst friends

By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Shaquille O’Neal sat all of his 7-foot, 300-plus-pound frame down in a black chair in the green room for TNT’s “Inside the NBA” show at Staples Center when a thought suddenly popped in his head.

He called over his cohorts from TNT, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller, and asked, “Who would you take, (Clippers forward) Blake Griffin or (Minnesota forward) Kevin Love?”

That started a debate among the TNT NBA analysts that continued on the set during halftime of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Boston Celtics game, which the network aired Monday night.

It was completely unscripted. It was funny. It was entertainment, TNT-style.

O’Neal, with his giant personality, has fit in just fine teaming with Barkley, Smith and Ernie Johnson, the host of the Emmy-award winning NBA broadcast.

“He’s doing great,” Barkley said. “You know how his personality is. He’s fun to be around. That’s the one thing at TNT is we’re going to have fun.”

They were in town to do their show during the Lakers-Dallas Mavericks game.

“I’m loving this, brother,” O’Neal said. “I work with the best people, Ernie, Chuck, Kenny. This is not like having a real job. It’s like hanging out with your friends.”

Another analyst, Steve Kerr, talked about how he doesn’t have the same stress anymore now that he’s back working at TNT.

He had worked for the network for four years before becoming the general manager of the Phoenix Suns in 2007.

But he left that position in 2010 and came back to TNT.

“This is great fun always,” said Kerr, who was working the Lakers-Mavericks game along with analyst Miller and play-by-play announcer Marv Albert.

“You never take a loss home with you. You’re undefeated. But you don’t have the highs that the GMs have. It’s a much better life. It’s a much healthier life.”

There’s so much that goes into the award-winning show, especially when they take it on the road.

One look inside of one of the production trucks shows how the behind-the-scenes people make it happen so effortlessly.

“To me, I’ve always been a proponent of, you can put up as many graphics or as many tapes as you want,” said Tim Kiely, the producer of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” “But the thing that people talk about tomorrow: ‘Did you hear what Chuck said? Did you hear what Shaq said?’ A lot of times you get much more generated from ‘Did you hear what he said,’ about whatever the subject was.”

By the way, the subject of whom the analysts would rather take, Griffin or Love, never got a definitive answer.

O’Neal took Griffin. Barkley took Love “right now” in their careers. Miller also took Love. But all of them still like Griffin’s potential.

Johnson has to try to control O’Neal, Barkley and Smith.

“I’m the lion tamer,” Johnson said, laughing. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years and I still love doing this.”

That seems to be the prevailing sentiment of those involved in the show.

“The one thing I told Shaq was that he’s the ‘Big Analytical” now,” Smith said. “The other thing I told him is that it’s the first time in his career he’s not the most dominant player. He can come in here and be a role player for a second.

“This is what me and my brothers did. We’d sit around and analyze the game. My brother always laughs and says, ‘You’re just getting paid to do it.’ We all are getting paid to do something that we love.”

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