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O'Neal launching new career as NBA analyst

ATLANTA — Shaquille O'Neal doesn't like the Chris Paul trade; Charles Barkley says Commissioner David Stern made a mistake.

O'Neal also says the trade talk swirling around Dwight Howard has damaged his relationship with the Magic though Barkley says the center is the first player he would choose to start a franchise.

Let the debates begin.

O'Neal, the Hall of Fame-bound center, is joining Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson on the set of TNT's "Inside the NBA."

Barkley and O'Neal seemed to disagree on all the NBA's hot stories on Thursday. The two outspoken and entertaining former stars had differing views of the deal which sent Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I think that they totally took a step back," O'Neal said of the Hornets.

Barkley said the Hornets, who acquired guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice, protected their future without making a huge sacrifice in their current outlook.

"I think it's a great trade for the Hornets because they weren't going to win with Chris Paul," Barkley said.

Barkley said the Clippers can win with Paul.

"I can't believe I am saying this, there is a legitimate question now: Who is the best team in L.A.?

"The Clippers have got all of their young talent and now they've got a leader. Chris Paul is a leader. He's going to force them to mature quicker."

O'Neal wasn't ready to crown the Clippers the new top team in town.

"I think the Lakers are always the Lakers," O'Neal said before adding the Clippers will be more competitive.