Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Shaq Trade Thickens LeBron-Kobe Plot
They say terms have been agreed to. The Suns will send Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavaliers for Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace in a move long speculated over and now a reality. The Suns get some cap space, dumping the Daddy's unreasonable contract ($20 million in its final year next year) in exchange for Pavlovic's partially guaranteed salary and a possible buyout of Wallace, who has expressed an interest in retirement and at the worst comes off the books in the basketball event that is next summer. They also receive the 46th pick in today's draft and $500,000 in cash. The Cavaliers get a 37-year old legend who probably played the last All-Star caliber ball of his career this past season. What do we get? Another Shaq-Kobe arc. Theirs is a story that will never die.
If Robert Horry was the master of finding himself aligned with the best big men in the game (Olajuwon, O'Neal, Duncan), then Shaq is the best ever at tagging up with the deadliest wing players going. Young Penny, Kobe, Wade, and now The King; the only cat he never hooked up with in his day was MJ himself. Having laced it up with those four guys is enough to make your career a noteworthy one. The Big Twitterer's latest partner is Kobe's new foremost rival, even more so than himself at this point, and I wonder how this trade will affect the supposed truce he has with his old teammate. Shaquille has always been known to tout his guy, even when he was playing with Kobe; will he be able to pronounce the supreme virtues of his new running mate without demeaning the greatness of his longtime nemesis? They're allegedly cool now, I've heard about it; but we all know that deep down hatred defines the true nature of their relationship, especially from Shaq's end. Can he resist his natural instinct to trash him, now that the obvious LeBron-Kobe pitched battle has been placed right in front of him and made a part of his life? The math says no. It's like he's been given one good reason.
I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with a precedent for this scenario, of a situation in which a partnership is formed between two people, they become forever linked by their alliance/success, have a bitter fallout, and it culminates in one of the agents of the former union committing the ultimate act of treachery by joining forces with his onetime colleague's current chief opponent. Betrayal, a theme that has been explored countless times throughout pop culture and history, and I cannot come up with a reference, a fact which I will kill myself for once Bill Simmons beats me to it. I'd compare it to Phil Jackson forming such a bond with Jordan through their six championships together, then helping Kobe close the gap on him in Los Angeles, but there is no bitterness between Jordan and Jackson.
I can only imagine what a Lakers-Cavs Finals would look like now, even juicier than before, double the hype and drama. Kobe, with a win, would vanquish both LeBron and Shaq in one swoop, the proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. Shaq, with a victory, would be able to find great peace in knowing that he lent a helping hand as LeBron pushed Kobe down the short waterfall and became the king in more than just name. Both of them would have the opportunity to move one ahead of the other on the all-time rings list, and go up 1-0 head-to-head in a seven-game series.
Will it happen either way? There's no guarantee we will ever see it take place, as Shaq will be a year older next season and without the aid of the wizards that are the Phoenix Suns medical staff. LeBron always made sure Big Z got his touches on the block and will surely feed the Big Dog, but it's just unlikely that Shaq will be as effective in the upcoming campaign as he was in '09. ESPN's Chris Broussard, who broke the story, suggests it will help Cleveland not get eaten alive by Dwight Howard again, but if they really wanted match up better with the Magic they should have made a move for a swingman, like Stephen Jackson. And of course the Spurs have become a become a problem again with their recent acquisition, something the Lakers will have to worry about.
We were let down this year, everyone's dream match-up squashed by Orlando, but I suppose at some point LeBron and Kobe will have to meet up to decide this thing, and it might as well happen while the Diesel is still around to thicken the narrative and multiply the plot times two.