Dan Hilton Q&A #3: The Shaq Edition

Suns.com Web Analytics Coordinator and Bright Side of the Sun founder Dan Hilton is back with another Q&A. With Shaq scheduled to make his debut in a Suns uniform tomorrow night against the Lakers, the timing couldn't be better. For the newcomers, Dan was the main page blogger here up until this past July when he went to work for the Suns. We've had him back to answer questions for us a couple of times since then. You can find the previous Q&A's with Dan here and here.

Catch the latest from Dan after the jump.

Bright Side of the Sun: What was it like around the office when news of the trade for Shaq first came out? Shock? Dismay? Exuberance? All of the above? What would we have seen and heard if we had been a fly on the wall that day?

Dan: I got into the office around 7:30 the morning of the trade and while we didn't know for sure that the trade was a done deal, we expected that it would get done soon. I can say that I spoke with people who had all of the emotions you listed. Some co-workers were shocked, others dismayed, others exuberant. What would you have seen if you were a fly in the wall of the Suns.com News Room that day? A bunch of guys running around like chickens with their heads cut off getting ready for the possible Shaq trade while at the same time arguing back and forth on the pros and cons of that same trade going down. Picture the New York Stock Exchange as a sports bar and you'll have a good idea of what that day was like.

Bright Side of the Sun: What were you initial thoughts about the deal? Did you love it immediately, or did it grow on you after the fact?

Dan: My first reaction was, "Holy cow, Steve Kerr has guts!" And then I spent 5 minutes thinking about the trade and the implications. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea. Everyone in the national media was pretty much agreed that the Suns just didn't have what it took to win the championship this season. If that's really the case, and the Suns' goal is to win a championship and not just 60 games a season, why not make the move and see what happens?

Bright Side of the Sun: We've been reading about Mike D'Antoni's "new playbook" in the media. Have you had a chance to watch a Suns practice since Shaq arrived? Any hints on what we can expect to see in the Suns' new look?

Dan: I have not been down to see a Mike D'Antoni practice since Shaq arrived. But several of my co-workers have and they say the practices are going well. I don't know that I have any hints of what to expect with Shaq but here's what I do know: If the Suns come down and a play breaks up (which seems to happen more in the playoffs as defense intensifies), they now can dump it into the middle and let Shaq work until he either shoots or gets double-teamed. If you're the Spurs, are you going to let Tim Duncan take Shaq one-on-one in the playoffs? If not, who are you going to double-team him with? And who will that leave open on the Suns for a wide-open three point shot or at least a shot from the elbow? Those are the things that I think about these days.

Bright Side of the Sun: Which teams do you think the Suns will match up better with now that Shaq is on the team? And are there teams the Suns should be worried about now that maybe they weren't so worried about before?

Dan: I think the Suns obviously match up better with the Lakers than they did before the trade. Also the Spurs. The one team I am worried about now is the Warriors because they are the new run-and-gun team. They don't have anyone that can match up against Shaq on the defensive end but I think Shaq will have a hard time matching up against some of their guys as well. While I completely trust Mike D'Antoni in coming up with a way to combat "small ball" now that we won't be playing it as much, the Warriors are the team that scare me the most.

Bright Side of the Sun: What can you tell us about the situation in the locker room prior to the trade? Some reports in the media were using words like "morose" and "dreary" to describe the mood in there. Was it really that bad or was it just the normal adversity every team goes through being blown out of proportion a little? In other words, was this trade as much about relocating guys who were unsatisfied with their roles as it was about landing the big guy?

Dan: I honestly didn't see a lot of the mood in the locker room because I don't get down there a lot. I'm the odd-guy-out in the Suns.com News Room in that I'm not a reporter as much as I'm a numbers guy that is a self-taught blogger. I figure if someone is going to get an interview for Suns.com, I shouldn't be taking up the space asking miserable "cub reporter" questions. But I have seen the attitude after the trade and the team seems to be in much higher spirits. I don't blame that so much on Shawn Marion as I do just having something new happening. These guys are all excited to start the second half of the season.

Bright Side of the Sun: Ever since the trade was announced, it seems like the Suns (and Suns.com) have been all about Shaq, and the Arizona Republic went as far as to call him "the new axis that the Suns rotate around". Is this a temporary thing brought on by all the hype over the trade, or is Shaq officially the new face of the team? If he is, do you think Steve Nash (or Amare) will mind having to step out of the limelight a little?

Dan: Shaq is Shaq. It is the team's biggest trade since the Charles Barkely acquisition. I can't give you specific numbers on the site traffic but I can tell you that we had a MAJOR jump in traffic the week after the trade. I don't think that was because people wanted to see what the bench players were doing. So Suns.com was just giving the public what they were clamoring for. That being said, I think after Shaq's first or second game, you'll see that things get back into a nice rhythm where there are three bona fide stars that all get their due. Do I think Nash or Amare will mind having to step out of the limelight a little? I can almost guarantee that Nash will appreciate it and I think Amare knows that as you win, the spotlight gets bigger and you can accommodate more people. He'll be out to prove he's as good as ever but I personally don't think he'll let Shaq taking some of the limelight affect the chemistry of the team.

Bright Side of the Sun: We haven't heard much from your blog at Suns.com lately. Will you be picking this up again, or have your responsibilities shifted to other assignments?

Dan: With the baby in the past month, the Shaq trade and my regular numbers duties, I have been slacking on my blog a bit. But I hope to pick it up in the next few games and keep it going through the playoffs. My responsibilities haven't really shifted as much as I have just had a lot more to do with everything going on around here!

Bright Side of the Sun: Some of our readers in Phoenix are dying to know what the new introduction for the starting lineups will look like, both the video and the music. Can you give us any hints?

Dan: No hints! I haven't seen the video but I have heard that it is going to be really, really good. I'll be at the game when they show it so I can let you know more then!

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