Matt Moore from Hardwood Paroxysm
I find it interesting that you choose to lodge this AFTER Shaq's little renaissance.
1. I can't possibly say it was a bad move after his last two games, can I? The dominance, the the effectiveness, the awesome clear-out with the left hand, the ability to get away with three-seconds, and my favorite part, the constant references to how much he wants to reunite with Kobe in LA. The fact is that this move is paying dividends the last two weeks. And that's about it. They have handcuffed themselves to a player who demands the system be fitted to him, even though he's 37 in a few weeks and they have a squad full of great players who can play well together. If Shaq's still putting out 30 point games in the playoffs, especially against Duncan (since apparently that's all Phoenix fans care about, beating San Antonio), then yeah, it's brilliant. That's the thing. We know they're not winning a title. They're just not. So by that standard, it has to be a mistake. But the great thing about it is that Shaq's personality, payroll, and PR image means that it can't be blamed on him. If he plays well and they lose, then it's because his teammates didn't step up. "Shaq did everything he could!" If he doesn't play well and they lose, his teammates still didn't step up. "Shaq can't do it all by himself!" He's somehow become the anti-Kobe. Never blamed for his selfishness, no matter what happens. Plus they're paying him $20 million for him to talk about wanting to be with Kobe. So they've got that going for them.
2. Would I trade Shawn Marion? Absolutely. I argued for it before it happened. Marion was a malcontent who thought he could be "The Man" with an option-expiring contract. No one was happy in Phoenix (amazingly since Steve Kerr appeared. How odd.), and they needed to do something. Would I trade him for a 36 year old $40 million investment with conditioning issues who fits but NOT AT ALL with the rest of our team which is built on speed? Yeah, not so much. I tend to think franchises should make smart, relevant moves that are responsible in the long-term and that improve the team in the short term. But then, I'm more concerned with the basketball product than the jersey sales. And I don't think it's 2003.
3. Well, since it looks like Elton Brand was capable of being coaxed out of LA, and since the Phoenix training staff would giggle at Lazarus and sey they could do better (and could), I'd aim for what I argued at that point for Marion. A series of role players, one to two with size and rebounding (who aren't capable of killing someone with a poorly aimed crowd dive- seriously, he's going to squash a toddler one of these times), and a backup point guard who's at least capable of running the offense while Nash rests his back. The core of that team was succesful. Everyone complains about it, but they simply WON GAMES. Yes, even ones in the playoffs. You want to be able to battle the Spurs? Pick up a defensive guard to put on Parker and Ginobili (and do nothing else), and a few rebounders to box out Oberto. Then in the offseason I use the expirings to make a run at Brand. Yes, they still lack a true center. But they have enough firepower to overcome anyone. Does it sound like it's impossible? Look at some of the trades that have been done and tell me you can't get it done. Nothing is impossible for a GM with savvy. But then, by that standard, maybe there was nothing they could do.
Marion was part of one of the greatest teams in Suns history. His sin was the same as many players, he simply thought he was better than he is. But in trading for Shaq, the team took a financial liability and it turned inot a financial catastrophe, who constantly undermines his teammates, has alienated multiple core members, requires the ball when he only recently has started to earn it, and has ushered in a season of turmoil and discontnent. But hey, they won today, so maybe they're finally putting it together.
Either that, or they're just setting up Shaq to figure out a way to convince LA to take him back. One or the other.