INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Shaquille O'Neal, he of the enormous physique and four championship rings, made it clear Wednesday that he's a fan of LeBron James' leadership and also of the television hit LOST.
Before I had a chance to ask Shaq, "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" he'd also made it clear what needs to happen for the Cavs to save their season in Game 6 Thursday night in Boston.
"Nothing's wrong with him," Shaq said of LeBron. "It's our job as `others' to make him look good. We got to hit shots when he gives up the ball and we've got to play defense. We've got to open up the floor for him. When he's coming off the ball and kicking it, guys have got to hit shots. If you don’t hit shots, then that team's not going to respect other players and they're going to crowd the floor. He's playing the right way -- dribbling, and when they come, kick it to the guys. It's our job as `the others' to make him look good."
Though much of the focus has been on LeBron's 3-for-14 shooting night -- his third sub-par offensive performance in the series -- Shaq remained focused on the aspect of the game that has put the Cavs in the hole they're in.
"Our problem is not offense," Shaq said. "Our problem is, you can't let guys get historical triple-doubles and you can't let five guys get into double figures. So our problem is not offense. But is LeBron a great leader? One of the best I've ever played with."
Like LeBron, Shaq referred to the sense of panic that has descended on northeast Ohio as the Cavs face second-round elimination for the second straight year. Cleveland has been waiting 46 years for a pro sports championship, and everyone here thought this was the year.
"I wouldn’t say panic," Shaq said. "But it’s a beautiful city. It’s a great city. Forty-six years is a long time. And back in the day when they had Brad Daugherty and Mark Price, they almost had a chance. But I think this is a team that you look at and say, `This is our time.' I wouldn't call it anxiety or panic. It's just that 46 years is a long time to wait for such a beautiful city.
"We all know what's at stake here," Shaq said. "LeBron wants to win the whole thing. We all want to win the whole thing. We just have to make him look good and we just have to step it up on defense. ... Everyone knows what's at stake, and [Thursday] we'll see what we're made of."