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A Six Pack of Diesel: Suns Weekly Checkup for 02/09/2008

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What a week! We're going to do things a bit different for the weekly checkup this time and break it down into segments. Think ESPN.com's Daily Dime, only with fewer items and without the pretty formatting. This may get a bit lengthy, so bear with us.

1. Out with the "new"...
The Suns may still run a bit in the Shaq era, but above anything else, this trade is a message that winning a championship any which way you can is more important than winning a championship with a unique, unorthodox, fast and fun style. In other words, the Suns are thinking "versatility" now, which is ironic since it comes at the cost of their most versatile player. Regardless of how this all ends up playing out, we're sure going to miss the Matrix. He was a huge part of what made the Suns so much fun to watch. But he seems happy to be moving on, so we wish him the best. Good luck, Shawn!
2. In with the "old"...

So the Suns are now pinning their hopes on a soon-to-be 36-year-old center who has four championships with two different franchises. Before he even officially arrived, he told Steve Nash "I won't let you down". In his press conference on Thursday he vowed to make skeptics "eat their words" and talked about the need to win not just one but two championships with the Suns to complete his "legacy". The question is, can his body make good on these lofty aspirations? The Suns' physicians think so. The Suns players seem excited about it too. But until Shaq actually takes the floor in a game, we can only speculate (good and bad) on how this will work out.

Burning Questions (aside from the obvious):

  1. How does this affect the "balance of power" in the locker-room? Does Nash become more of a role-player now, or is he still the face of the team?
  2. How will the Suns' fill their open roster spot?
  3. What if Grant Hill doesn't pick up his player option for next season?
  4. What will the new intro look like?
  5. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, was it worth it?
3. What does Dan think about this?

A reader wondered what former Bright Side of the Sun blogger turned Suns.com blogger Dan Hilton thinks about the trade, so we asked. Speaking strictly as a fan (not an official Suns position), he had this to say:

"The way I've been explaining it is this: According to most national sources, the local media and many blogs, the Suns didn't have a chance to win a championship this season and were under-performing. The front office obviously thought the same thing. The object of playing is to win a ring and if you have a chance to upgrade the one thing people say you need (interior defense), I think you have to make the move.

Only time will tell if this was a good move or not but, in my opinion, it is worth the risk."

We hope to have more from Dan in the next week or so (read: as soon as we get off our lazy duffs and write up a list of questions to send him).

4. Views from around SBNation

Clips Nation thinks the Suns should have been more patient and laments the effect the addition of Shaq will have on the Suns' entertaining style:

"The Suns were a blast to watch. Watching a young, dominant Shaq is about as much fun as watching me post up ClipperMax. Watching an old, slow Shaq is more like watching my 73 year old dad post up ClipperMax (Papa was quite the baller in his day). Shaq can be effective still, I have no doubt about that. But not particularly entertaining."

Pick Axe And Roll blames Memphis:

"I think GM's were blown away by that trade. This is the first panic move generated by the Gasol to LA transaction. The internet is abuzz with effusive praise for the Lakers. The speed at which everyone is handing the Lakers the Larry O'Brien trophy makes the Celtics offseason coronation seem glacial by comparison."

5. By the way, there were some games this week...

Three to be exact. First, the Suns took on the Bobcats in a game I shamefully described as a "routine blowout". Since it turned out to be Shawn Marion's last night in a Suns uniform, I wish now I had approached it more like srp did in appreciating the joy of the moment.

On Wednesday, fresh off the hype and emotional turmoil of both losing a long-time teammate and gaining a legend, the Suns dropped a close one to the Hornets. It was a double-overtime classic in which the Suns showed a lot of heart and passion. Tough to come up short, but great to see a glimpse of that 2005-06 resilience again.

Wrapping up the week was last night's narrow escape over the Sonics. Thank goodness for free throws. And Wally Szczerbiak.

6. He said, She said

A few final thoughts from both of us to make this post even longer.

Phoenix Stan:

It's really been amazing to watch how fast the Sun's fans and even media "experts" have changed their tune from "WTF?!?" to "Shaq is The Answer" all without one minute of court time.

This has to be either the biggest example of PR magic since Sungayla or undeniable proof that Americans really do choose hope.

But the deal is done and I can either quit whining and board the Diesel Express or move along. And since this has been my team since I was barely larger then a basketball there's really no other choice is there. Except I am a stubborn SOB and I am staying the course: This Deal Blows. And for the final time from me - here's why:

Top Ten Reasons Why This Deal Sucks:

  1. Shaq is old and broken. Everyone says "if Shaq is healthy then blah blah blah" which is an awful lot like saying "other then that Mrs. Lincoln did you enjoy the play?"
  2. Shaq is slow and boring. Even unrelated to reason #1 he has always been slow and say what you want about the Suns but they have NEVER BEEN SLOW. Or boring.
  3. Shaq cannot defend the new breed of athletic bigs and he's too slow to rotate and provide help D on speedy guards like Parker and Ellis.
  4. Shaq clogs up the Suns offense. The pick and roll and drive and kick has basically the same effect on the defense - to suck in help and leave shooters open. Both rely on spacing the floor and keeping the lane clear. How is Shaq going to do that? Is he going to go to the 3 pt line while Nash and Amare operate? Is he going to be the roll guy instead of Amare? I don't think so.
  5. The Suns now are stuck with two more years of $20m Shaq which seriously limits our options in the unlikely event that Shaq should be unable to perform.
  6. The Suns could have found an athletic big to defend both inside and out and rebound without taking up about 30% of the cap space. Someone like the 7ft/$1m Johan Petro who got 3 blocks and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes Friday night.
  7. If Marion was such a locker room cancer then trade him. Great. Or, perhaps you can spend a few million on a great shrink instead of $20m on what - a locker room jokester? Weren't Carrot Top and Dr Phil available?
  8. Shaq can't shoot at all. That means his big ass is stuck in one of two places on the floor. The right block or the left block. Anywhere else on the court you can just leave him unguarded.
  9. Marion is an amazing defender and with Shawn on the floor with Hill and Bell the Suns easily shut down good teams that rely on perimeter players. Against the Hornets Marion would have locked down CP3 and left Hill to guard Peja. Instead Bell is on Peja and Hill has to cover CP3 when LB and Nash can't. And who is guarding Dirk or Gasol? There's no way Shaq is going to replace that kind of value on defense.
  10. Shaq is old and broken. I just don't see how the Sun's geriatric unit can keep this guy on the court for another couple of years. They are good but they aren't witches with magic healing powers.
  11. I hope I am wrong and this bold move ranks right up there with drafting Marion over Maggette. And I sincerely hope Shaq doesn't read this blog and track me down.

TexSUN:

I think my thoughts (and posts) have pretty much run the gamut since the trade for Shaq was first mentioned in what seemed at the time like a far-fetched, meaningless rumor:

Tuesday Night: This is a joke, right? RIGHT???

Wednesday: Oh no, they did NOT just do that! It's the end of the (Suns') world as we know it! Kill me now.

Thursday: OK, enough complaining. It's done. Deal with it. (I'm still not drinking the Koolaid, though).

Friday: Well, if Nash likes the deal, and Amare likes the deal, and heck even D'Antoni likes the deal, then maybe just maybe they know a little more about what works for Suns basketball than I do. Still going to miss the run-and-fun. Wish we could have had the cake and eaten it too.

Four days later I still don't know what to think about this trade. Perhaps it's just a side-effect of taking my Suns fandom far more seriously than I probably should, but this whole thing has seemed (on a much smaller scale, of course) like adjusting to life after losing your job and starting a new one in a different city. Even if it ultimately leaves you in a better place, there's still a point early on where it really hits you: Life will never be the same again. Welcome to the new "normal".

But all that said, I am starting to come to this conclusion: Perhaps instead of waiting to see if Shaq will fit in and making him "earn it", as I so arrogantly put it on Thursday, I should give him and the Suns' front office the benefit of the doubt, and assume it's going to work until proven otherwise. I will miss the run-and-gun style that made me an NBA fan again, and it may be a while before I stop looking for #31 to fly in out of nowhere for an alley-oop or that rebound that saves the day. But who's to say for certain that the "new" Suns won't be just as entertaining?

Maybe exchanging a guy, who by many accounts no longer wanted to be here, for one who considers this trade to be an answer to his prayers will rejuvenate this team in a way we can't possibly fathom. I have always believed that if the Suns with Amare could somehow summon that same resilience and passion they had without him in the 2005-06 season, the championship would be a done deal. Perhaps the trade for Shaq will be the unexpected catalyst that makes that happen.

We also don't know yet who the Suns will get for the 13th player to complete their roster. If they manage to come away with a steal, that could change the dynamics of this thing even more. All we know for sure at this point is that the Suns will be different. Different isn't always bad.

That's my take on it as of this afternoon. Ask me again a month from now, and you may get a different answer.

 

 


Image by Matt at Hardwood Paroxysm