Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Shaq traded to Suns for Marion, Banks
Wow. That happened quickly.
Tuesday afternoon the WWL reported that the Miami Heat were in talks with the Phoenix Suns about a trade that would send (an allegedly shocked) Shaquille O'Neal to the desert. Five minutes ago I got a text from Kane confirming that the deal had been finalized. Indeed, the little "Breaking News" box at the bottom right corner of the ESPNEWS channel reads "Suns agree to trade for Shaquille O'Neal." Phoenix will be sending along Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks in return. The Daddy will fly to Phoenix tomorrow for a physical to complete the deal. First Van Gundy, now Shaq. Riles does not play.
So, what does it all mean? Well, on Phoenix's end, this is obviously a direct/panicked response to the Lakers' recent acquisition of Pau Gasol (who threw up a 24-12 in his LA debut in Joisey tonight). It's understandable - everyone in the West needs to seriously think about beefing up their frontline in the wake of that transaction. But let's face it, the Shaq of two years ago is probably gone, let alone any semblance of the man that once lived up to his self-proclaimed title of M.D.E. Shaq is a dinasour now. Phoenix has slowed their run-and-gun style down some, becoming a more orthodox team since last season, but even with that Shaq probably won't be able to keep up with their pace. More than likely, they're going to ask Shaq to become an almost solely defensive player. He's capable, but will he be willing to do that? In his tell-all classicThe Last Season, Phil Jackson quoted Shaq, in response to a question about whether he considered it more important that he play offense or defend and rebound, as saying, "I've always been an offensive player. I've never been a defensive player." The man has four championships, the last coming without Kobe, so he has zero left to prove. There's no reason or motivation for him to change his tune now.
And even if he did, do you really see him keeping up with a young, healthy, Andrew Bynum come playoff time, in a seven-game series? I thinks not. The fact of the matter is, Fisher+Kobe+Odom+Pau+healthy Bynum+Farmar+Sasha+Ariza+Walton+Radmanovic+Turiaf > Nash+Bell+Hill+Amare+old Shaq+Barbosa+Diaw+Skinner. The Lakers are loaded.
Then again, there's a small part of me that was initially terrified of the thought of Shaq coming back to the Western Conference. It's the same feeling I got when Mike returned for the last time, and it made me fear a Lakers-Wizards Finals matchup, as unlikely as it was that it would actually occur (and obviously, the Wiz didn't even make the playoffs in MJ's two years with them as a player). I wanted no part of Michael Jordan in that scenario. Why? Because no matter how old and washed up he was, he was still Michael Jordan. As long as he could play even a little bit, he was extemely dangerous to me. And in the back of my head, all the way down at the itty bitty bottom, I want no part of Shaquille O'Neal in late spring - for the same reason as with MJ, coupled with the no-need-to-be-recounted ending that was his Lake Show career. I'll probably have a couple nightmares in the coming months about Shaq haunting the Lakers at the Staples Center this May.
As for Miami, they still suck but they're in better shape now. They get out from under Shaq's ridiculous contract and add a very nice piece in Marion, although he fit in better in Phoenix's system than he will in Miami, or anywhere else for that matter. The Suns never appreciated how perfect Shawn Marion was to them, and vice versa. Shawn thought he wanted to be traded, but he probably didn't know it was gonna be to the worst team in the league. He's about to get a Ph.D. in Being Careful What You Wish For.