NEW YORK - Pat Riley can't understand why Shaquille O'Neal keeps talking about the Miami Heat.
Riley responded to O'Neal's criticisms Wednesday with some of his own, saying his former center was wrong to disparage some of his old teammates and trainers in a Boston Globe story.
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"It's sad that he says those things. We shared so much here, together, for three years, good and bad, 3 1/2 years," Riley said, referring specifically to the Heat's 2006 NBA title. "I just think it's sad that he's got to do that."
Riley dealt O'Neal to Phoenix before the trade deadline, allowing the 36-year-old center the chance to compete for another title instead of sticking around Miami for a last-place finish. O'Neal made it clear how much he prefers his new teammates.
"I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys," O'Neal told the Globe. "We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again."
After Phoenix's loss to Boston, O'Neal elaborated, saying that defenses would sag off of Quinn and Davis and he wasn't able to get the ball. Of Riley's comments, O'Neal said colorfully, "I don't (care) how he interpreted it."
O'Neal was critical about shots - as in, not getting enough of them - often during his tenure with the Heat. This year, he expressed those sentiments in the days that followed a 110-101 loss at Utah on Dec. 3 - a game where Quinn didn't play and O'Neal and Davis were on court together for 16 minutes, 2 seconds.
He also complained about not getting enough touches two days after going 8-for-15 in a 120-99 loss against Orlando, another game where he and Quinn never were on the court at the same time.
Plus, O'Neal got into an argument with Riley during an early-season practice, and words got so heated that teammate Alonzo Mourning intervened to keep the two separated.
O'Neal used to repeatedly refer to his Miami coach as "the great Pat Riley" during his time in South Florida.
But he also was clearly miffed when Riley pulled him in the first minute of a game at New Jersey earlier this season for blowing a defensive assignment.