Well someone decided it would be a good idea to pay Shaquille O’Neal $20 million when I couldn’t sell him for 50 cents. Did they not read my item description? As far as I’m concerned everything I said back in December still stands – except for the bit about Shaq mortgaging the Miami Heat’s future. It’s still the same fat Shaq (and I do not see any point in having to apologise calling him “fat”), he still can’t jump, he’s quite slow, he looks unmotivated and he couldn’t prevent his team (the Heat) from being the worst in the league. So it will probably puzzle you to know that I think this is a good trade for the Phoenix Suns and that Shaq might be the piece they need to get them over the hump. No I haven’t lost my mind but I did go to Pony last night (for those who have been to Pony, you’ll understand). Here then is how the Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix story played out in Robd’s world…

6th February, 2008. 12:47 PM
I receive news of the Shaq-to-Phoenix rumours from Chucko (aka The Frustrated Suns Fan) who is always the first to inform me of Suns-related happenings. The news arrives in a email, subject titled: OH GOD NO!!! I open the email to read the following:

OMFG!!!!! PLEASE!!! NO!!!! NOT THAT!!!! ANYTHING BUT THAT!!!!!
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3232862

It sounded like a cry for mercy to Dark Helmet (go 1:25 in) so I quickly clicked on the link. My basketball brain was rocked as I found myself reading about a possible Shaq-to-Phoenix trade. I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st and continued reading, stunned. My reply to Chucko went a little like this:

hahahaha COP THAT!
i dunno about that. O’Neal can’t jump let alone run with you guys. having said that it defenitely gives you an inside presence. and with Amare still playing down low it means Shaq isn’t the only option (which he is in Miami). would be interesting…

The reply from Chucko was swift and to the point, and gave me little hope that Phoenix fans would be welcoming of this trade:

No it wouldn’t be interesting, it would be a f–king disaster!
It would destroy everything Phoenix have worked for. You can’t run and gun an offense with a player who (literally) can’t run.
He would be 0-0 every game, because by the time he gets to the half court line, the Suns have had 3 passes, 2 good looks at the ring, and jacked up a shot.
It’s one thing to have an inside presence, it’s another to have a fat old guy with no knees who eats $20 million a year (in pizza). Wrong wrong wrong.

Followed by this email…

If Shaq goes to Phoenix, I’ll have to switch teams to Atlanta Hawks and kill myself to end my suffering
(in reference to a quote Chucko made last November, “If I was a Hawks supporter I’d kill myself”)

A few hours passed in which I half-attempted to put together an argument why this could be a good trade, while Chucko ranted about why Brian Skinner should be getting more minutes and that he was the exact type of “gritty rebounder” the Suns needed. I think Chucko might be forgetting that Skinner has pulled down more than 10 boards in only ONE game this season. It was a desperate plea from a Suns fan coming to grips with the fact Shaquille O’Neal might be joining his team.

7th February, 2008. 9.32 AM
I arrive at work to find another email from Chucko acknowledging the deal had been sealed. The subect: Game over man… Game over. After a few more back-and-forth emails of abuse towards Shaq and the Suns management, Chucko’s tone starts to change. After I poked some more fun at this ridiculous situation I got this one back:

Shuddup fool. You won’t be laughing when Shaq dunks all over Sheed’s face

Was he talking smack to me now? Anyway, the deal was done. Shaq is a Suns player, Marion is going to play for the worst team in the league. Sounds like Shaq got the better end of that deal eh? Meanwhile the threat of being punished by the Lakers big men in the playoffs suddenly doesn’t seem so scary. Shaq may be old, but he can still give Bynum a handful, can’t he? I think so. I thought a lot of other things as well, and slowly this whole crazy trade started to make sense to me…

The Suns can’t run-and-gun with Shaq on the floor so they’re screwed? I think not. If you had to pick ONE guy in the entire league to make Shaq’s transition the easiest possible and to find a way to make him dangerous again, it would be Steve Nash. Like I said on the forums, with Shaq on the floor they will start to play more of a half-court offense, and if you think Nash can’t be just as effective in a half-court offense you’re crazy. Instead of Nash frantically driving the lane and finding open shooters, expect to see a lot more of Shaq camped in the low post kicking it back out to Nash for the open three. Expect to see just as many, if not more, open threes for every one without the Suns having to fast break all the time. And when the three is not there, expect to see a little more pick and role from Nash/Amare. All of a sudden an Amare mid-range jump shot doesn’t seem like such a huge gamble because Shaq is parked down there for the rebounds. You only have to go and watch Shaq’s press conference to get a feel for how much he wants to help Amare – he mentioned it about ten times (any my favourite quote from the press conference by Shaq, “You don’t wanna make me mad, when I’m mad I’ve been known to do things, like win championships”).

The other big factor here is chemistry. All has not been happy in the Suns camp this year, a lot stemming from Marion’s earlier trade requests. Shaq will have an instant effect on the Suns attitude and culture. Even if he has been talking a little too much lately, he has had as much success in this league as any one over the past 15 years so I think he’s entitled to. I do admire one thing about Shaq; his self-confidence and belief is as infallible as ever. I don’t know where that comes from because the man has been criticized, ostracized, and oversized all season long. Maybe Shaq has been made to look worse of late because of the Heat’s dismal situation? Maybe on a winning team with two other proven All-Stars Shaq will shine on a little longer? I can only hope, for the sake of frustrated Suns fans every where.

On to the weekend ramblings…

  • I watched the Boston v Minnesota game on Saturday and predicted the T-Wolves would win. The fact they didn’t doesn’t bother me any where near as much as it should bother Celtics fans their team can’t win games convincingly (or even just win games) without KG in the lineup. It’s not panic time yet, but it may be after the Celts have to go through the Spurs, Nuggets, Blazers, Warriors and Suns over their next seven games. If, as I suspect, they lose to the Spurs, Suns, Nuggets and one of Blazers/Warriors the Celtics could surrender the #1 spot in the East (and the league) in less then a couple of weeks. Especially considering…
  • The Pistons are flying. Their demolition of Portland was made to look good thanks to Roy’s absence, but it still looked good. No starter played more than 30 minutes, and their young trio of Johson/Afflalo/Stuckey played exceptionally well. The Pistons have a very comfy schedule over the next couple of weeks so the win streak could hit double-digits and the Celtics should be starting to worry.
  • I’m not done with my Pistons yet. After playing the Heat on Thursday Chauncey Billups made an excellent point, when asked what he thought about the Shaq trade. “There are a lot of situations that remind me of the way we’ve been able to keep it going. When I first got here, New Jersey was the cream of the crop in the East and look at them now. Indiana was a great team and I thought they were going to compete with us for a lot of years… It makes you appreciate what Joe [Dumars] does to keep this team together.” I thought about this a lot. It’s quite remarkable that when the Pistons came on to the scene the Nets were the undisputed kings of the East after back-to-back Finals appearances, and after putting Detroit in a 2-3 hole in the Semi-Conference Finals in ‘04 it looked like it would be three straight Nets Finals. But Detroit dug themselves out of that hole and cemented themselves as the new kings. The rivalry with the Pacers was as strong as it was brief – about two seasons – before they fell off the map. Then the Heat came along, lost to the Pistons in an epic 7-game Conference Finals, won a title the next year, and just exploded with the Shaq trade. That is three, title-contending teams out East who have come and gone in a little over five years while the Pistons have remained a legitimate threat the whole way through. Something tells me the Cavs will still be around a little while longer, but can you doubt that the Pistons will as well? Rip and Chauncey aren’t exactly “old”, Tayshaun is in his prime, and Maxiell, Johnson, Stuckey and Afflalo are a great core that could stay together another ten years. In my completely biased Pistons mind, this team can contend for titles another 3-4 years which would put their Eastern Conference reign at almost a decade. That is not normal, folks. That kind of thing happens once every now and then in this league.
  • Gasol has already acclimatized and the Lakers are starting to look scary. Kobe looks rejuvinated, Radmanovic has been a surprise with four-straight solid performances, D-Fish continues to have a career-best season, and Gasol is making 25-10 games look verrry easy. They are halfway through their road trip from hell but they are turning it into their very own championship-ready proclamation. And if you haven’t already marked 20th Feb in your calendar do it now. The Lakers-Suns rivalry just got a whole lot better. 320 pounds better.
  • Melo went for 49 on 19-25 shooting against the Wiz. That is ridiculous, and a pretty good argument why he should be getting more of the ball than Allen Iverson. The Nuggets continue to be that team who potentially could win a championship but you’re half expecting them to self-implode at some point in time, probably in a first-round playoff series. The problem for them is that no one will give them any credit until they do prove us wrong, i.e. win a playoff series. So they can win as many games as they want but I just can’t put them above the Suns, Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, Jazz, Hornets, Pistons or Celtics as championship contendors. That puts them 9th in my list, which does seem a little crazy for a team who has Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year
  • Lebron has officially become a “closer”. I think John Barry said it in Saturday’s broadcast, and it rings true. Lebron is now deadly effective at closing out games, as he demonstrated against the Celtics earlier in the week and the Hawks on the weekend. When I’m checking those Cavs box scores and I see the score tied with two minutes to play, I’m writing it off as a Cavs win. I don’t doubt Lebron like I used to.
  • The 76′ers are half a game out of the playoffs and have won three straight. I don’t need to say any more. The Philadelphia 76′ers look like they could be in the playoffs. If you had told me before the season I would end up saying that sentence 50 games into the season, I would have fallen over. Credit needs to be given to Iggy for quietly going for 20-5-4 and shouldering the post-Iverson scoring load, Dalembert who averages a double-double but no ones knows it, and Andre Miller for resurrecting his career and actually leading a team who I gave no hope in hell of making the playoffs. The funny thing is they are still a BAD team and 10 games under .500. The reality is it makes them a playoff contendor in the East

I could keep rambling but like I said, I did go to Pony, so I need some sleep.


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