Center Shaquille O'Neal was traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns last month, but the Orlando Magic -- the team with whom he started his high-profile career -- never seem far from his thoughts.
Wednesday was no exception.
O'Neal, who was in Boston preparing to play the Celtics Wednesday night, said after a morning practice that he hopes to take over management of the Orlando Magic when he retires as a player following the 2009-10 season.
He also expects to bring Grant Hill -- former Magic player and current teammate with the Suns -- along to help him.
"Grant will be the team president -- he's a bright guy -- and I'll be the general manager," O'Neal said. "I'm serious. They need me down there with the new arena coming. Grant and I are coming to do the job."
O'Neal has talked a few times over the years of returning to Orlando to play -- although he said now he will finish his career in Phoenix -- and also of returning eventually to become theOrange County Sheriff.
O'Neal has kept a home in the Orlando area since joining the Magic as the No. 1 pick of the 1992 draft out of LSU. He still considers Central Florida his home. He left as a free agent for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, but he always has returned during the NBA offseason.
He has two full seasons remaining on his contract, paying him $20 million each year. In the past, he has talked about wanting to be part of an ownership group in Orlando, but he has scuttled those plans.
"He's been talking about this a lot lately," said Hill. "I don't know what prompted it, but he's really fired up about the idea."
O'Neal's remarks came when approached by the Orlando Sentinel about a story regarding the twilight of his playing career. He is 36.
He said he still expects the DeVos family would own the team. When told that the team already has a President ( Bob Vander Weide, who is part of the family ownership group) and a general manager ( Otis Smith), he was undeterred.
"A thousand days, and I'm coming home," he said. "I'm going to use what I call my bridge general manager skills. A lot of general managers try to do it themselves. I build bridges. I'll have teammates. All this is in a perfect world. That's my dream, anyway."
Smith laughed when he heard Wednesday about O'Neal's plan for the future. "I thought he wanted to be sheriff," Smith said. "But when they are ready, I will be happy to step aside."