Free-agent center Shaquille O'Neal is seriously considering a two-year deal with the Hawks that starts at the mid-level exception of $5.8 million, according to NBA sources close to both the team and the future Hall of Fame player.Paying Shaquille O'Neal approximately $12 million for his age 38 and 39 seasons to be a marginal upgrade over Zaza Pachulia while taking minutes away from the three Hawks on the most reasonable contracts (not to mention potentially increasing the chances Josh Smith plays the 3 more often) doesn't strike me as a great allocation of resources but, hey, Shaq's really, really famous and nothing says a franchise is serious about winning like signing famous people, right?
"I think he wants to see how everything shakes out with all the free agents, but he's seriously considering Atlanta's offer,'' said the source who asked that his name not be used. "He wants to play two more years, and he wants it to be with a contender. He thinks he can help them become a serious one."
UPDATE (7/5/10 -- 10:17pm): Michael Cunningham reports:
...a person familiar with Atlanta’s plans said it’s doubtful the team has made such an offer this early in the free-agent process. The Hawks are seeking a bulky center, and ASG is said to be willing to use the mid-level exception and pay some luxury tax if necessary to do so, but so far it doesn’t appear the Hawks have decided whom else to target after re-signing J.J.A bulky center? Should go great with half a dozen guards who can't play a lick of defense.
UPDATE (7/6/10 -- 8:20am): As commenter Glenn references, David Aldridge has further information regarding the Hawks' thinking on Shaquille O'Neal, Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Zaza Pachulia:
An NBA source confirmed a FanHouse.com report Monday evening that the Atlanta Hawks have an interest in signing free agent center Shaquille O'Neal, and sources have told NBA.com's Sekou Smith that the team has discussed a two-year deal worth $11.7 million for O'Neal. However, the source cautioned that the Hawks' interest in the 38-year-old O'Neal is "preliminary" and that the team, no matter what big man it brings in, has no intention of moving All-Star center Al Horford to power forward in any scenario.This is more reasonable (and encouraging) than Povtak's original report though I think you'll again notice no mention of perimeter defense despite the Hawks being just as likely to face a team built around Dwyane Wade or LeBron James in the playoffs as the Orlando Magic. Not that an inability to guard Dwight Howard was even the team's most pressing problem in this Spring's obliteration at the hands of the Magic.
The source said the Hawks' interest in O'Neal is not significantly greater than the team's interest in other free agent centers like Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Brad Miller, and that the team has just begun examining whether it needs another big man to play with Horford and backup Zaza Pachulia, who Atlanta likes a great deal as a reserve.
The Hawks also do not want to mess too much with a team that won 53 games in the regular season, even though Atlanta was taken apart by Orlando in the second round. There have been murmurs that the Hawks are shopping forward Josh Smith, who had one of his best seasons last year. However, a source with knowledge of the Hawks' thinking said that the team would only contemplate moving Smith for a major, star player at power forward.
UPDATE (7/6/10 -- 8:54am): ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reports that the Celtics and Mavericks have also contacted O'Neal but:
The discussions have been in the preliminary stages and no financial terms have been broached. But with each team being over the salary cap, they can offer O'Neal no more than the mid-level exception of $5.8 million per season.