Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The Diesel in the Desert
Congrats Phoenix, you just showed the world that L.A. got you shook.
The Suns, finally realizing that San Antonio will own them no matter how many points they score until they get some interior defense, rescued Shaq from Miami today, sending off their most versatile player, Shawn Marion, to the Heat along with scrub Marcus Banks.
Shaq's health issues aside, there have been many questions as to why the Suns would make this deal, including:
Wouldn't a slower, older Shaq slow down the fast-paced Suns?
Yes and no. Yes, it would provide them a low-post presence who still commands double-teams for the playoffs and another option to their slightly predictable pick-and-roll offense.
But Shaq's presence won't hinder them on the fast break. Quick question: when have you ever seen five guys, including a 7-foot center, run a fast break? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was like 48 and he never slowed down Showtime. If anything, the Suns with Shaq will be a homeless man's reincarnation of the late 80s-era Showtime. Let's call them Gametime. Or Showtime in the Desert. Whatever.
If Phoenix ownership has dreaded going far into luxury tax range, why take on $40 million for the last two years of O'Neal's contract?
Well, it's a risk-reward issue. If Shaq can stay healthy and be the inside presence the Suns have lacked since Steve Nash re-arrived in 2004 and Phoenix can win a chip this year or next, wouldn't that be worth the $20 million he'll get in 2009-10? Plus, after Nash retires, the Suns are going to have to do some reloading anyway.
So yeah, I think it was a fairly good deal for Phoenix, and an even better deal for Miami. Pat Riley gets from under Shaq's massive salary and takes back Marion's deal, which he might opt out of this summer, leaving Riley with major cap space to go along with a potential top 2 pick in a very good draft.
So will the Suns overtake the Spurs (and Lakers) in the crowded West? Maybe. The Spurs have looked off, though they tend to look that way through stretches of many a regular season. But this has looked more so like a year-long thing.
Put it this way: The Suns just gave themselves a way better chance of not being San Antonio's property.