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Change Is Good....Except When It Isn't

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Well, what started out as a rumor that seemed too ridiculous for words is looking more and more likely to actually happen. KTAR's Gambo says:

"The Shaquille O'Neal trade to the Phoenix Suns [for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks] is not a rumor.

In fact, I expect it to happen sometime early afternoon on Wednesday."

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic reports that Shaq will be in town for a physical tomorrow and has already been in contact with some of the Suns' players. The only thing "saving" us now would be if Miami decides it likes the Mavericks' offer more. Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller thinks that may be what this is about.

But assuming this really is what it appears to be, this seems as good a time as any to resurrect a post I've started writing many times this season, only to change my mind thinking it was a bit too negative for a site called "Bright Side of the Sun". I was even thinking of putting it up today, fresh on the heels of the recent loss to the Spurs and the Lakers' lucky break, but once again, I decided it would be better off left unsaid. But now I'm in full-blown rant mode, so here goes...

It wasn't so long ago that I re-watched a game from the 2005-06 playoffs. That season, the Suns seemed to be playing with a joy and a passion that made you think they'd play for free if it meant keeping their season going just a little bit longer. They looked like they were having a blast on the court, like there was no place in life they'd rather be than playing with and for each other. Perhaps it was all just an Oscar-caliber acting job, but it made them irresistibly fun to watch. Cut to two years later, and more often than not, the Suns look like the regular season has become "just a job" (or maybe it only seems that way because we fans are spoiled). We've seen glimpses of the heart and resilience that made the 2005-06 squad so special, but it is no longer their defining characteristic. There have been times this season when the Suns have looked like nobody could beat them if they were playing at their best, but there have also been far too many times when the Suns have had the look of a team in need of a change. And not just a little change. An all-out shakeup that would alter the very nature of who and what they are. Change happens. Change is good. It keeps teams from becoming stagnant, and fans from becoming bored. But it has to be a good change.  

For the life of me, I can't see how this change benefits the Suns or Marion either for that matter, other than there being less competition for an All-Star spot in the East. How the heck is Shaq supposed to fit into Mike D'Antoni's system? Or would there even be a Mike D'Antoni's system anymore? Somehow, I don't find D'Antoni's reaction to the news all that comforting:

"Coach Mike D'Antoni said no deal was close on his KTAR-AM show Tuesday."

One thing is for certain--if this trade does indeed happen, the Suns will no longer be a run-and-gun team. They'll be just another conventional team with a real 7-footer, and everybody playing their natural positions. You know, "built for the playoffs", not for aesthetic value. In a lot of ways, I think the Suns were moving in that direction already, slowly transitioning from Steve Nash's free for all toward a more Amare-centric offense. A trade for O'Neal could certainly speed up Amare's development into the leader he will need to be after Nash (and Shaq) are gone. In that respect at least, the trade makes the tiniest bit of sense. But the Suns would miss the Matrix a lot, maybe much more than they realize. They would be trading a durable guy who defends every position on the floor, and hardly ever misses a game for a guy who's played more than 67 games only once in the past seven seasons. I'm finding it hard to believe the Suns couldn't have made a better deal than an aging Shaq. The only thing I can guess is that perhaps Marion's desire to leave never really went away, and was far more adamant than it seemed on the surface. I was hoping I was wrong about the situation being broken beyond repair, but if the Suns are willing to make this trade, then maybe things are worse than they seemed. Or perhaps Amare finally put his foot down and said "get me a real center or else"? Otherwise, I can't imagine why the Suns wouldn't either take their best shot with the guys they have, or else try to find a better fit for the system. Change is good, but unless I'm seriously missing something, this change seems just plain nuts! On the bright side, I guess if this goes through there should be no more talk about Robert Sarver being cheap or Steve Kerr lacking cajones.

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