Mike Lisboa from Bright Side of the Sun
I distinctly remember when the Shaquille O’Neal for Shawn Marion trade went down. As a Suns fan living in Los Angeles, I draw a lot of attention from my Laker-loving co-workers. So when a couple of them sidled up to me one morning snickering over the nascent trade, I assumed it was a joke. It had to be, right? Trading our jumping-jack-oil-that-makes-the-engine-run-smoother-defensive-stopper for an apparently out-of-shape-past-his-prime prima donna who was not known for his ability to get up and down the court? As we all know, the joke was on me. The sprinting Suns had tied a 325 pound boulder to their collective ankle.
When dealing with a star of Shaquille O’Neal’s magnitude, the ramifications are both massive and unpredictable. I think no one was quite ready for the displacement bringing him in was going to cause. An insanely successful coach with an immensely successful system was run off. Terry Porter was brought into fill the void and then ultimately voided himself due to an inability to get his players on board with his far less proven and unfamiliar offensive and defensive philosophy. Alvin Gentry stepped in and reinstituted D’Antoni’s system (with perhaps the tweaks Coach D would have made had he gotten another shot with this crew) and just like that, the Suns are shining again. The Shaq trade literally caused a full revolution (in the 360° sense of the word) in the Phoenix Suns’ game plan. And, of course, our beloved #31 (and if he wasn’t beloved to you as a Suns fan, you weren’t watching enough) became an afterthought lost in Shaq’s colossal wake.
The tragedy of the trade is the complete disintegration of Shawn Marion’s stature as a player. The SSOL system played to all his strengths (his athleticism, ball-hawking, perimeter defense and finishing) while masking his weaknesses (no handle, creating his own shot, inability to function in a half-court set, and lack of a reliable jumper). He’s a gazelle and, baby, he was born to run. It’s no wonder that his limited offensive repertoire coupled with injuries led to a Miami flame-out.
So would I do the trade over again? Absolutely. Let’s not forget we also dumped Marcus Banks’ albatross of a contract in the process of bringing in the Big Cactus. And I don’t think Marion would have been a difference maker in the Spurs series last season. They housed us before with him and they did just an effective job of housing us without him. To posit any more is wishful thinking.
Looking back at the trade, it’s almost impossible to deny the Suns got the better of this deal. A revitalized Shaq coupled with a revitalized Suns squad hell-bent on scorching their way into the playoffs and making life miserable for their first round opponent is almost enough to make Steve Kerr look like... a genius? I am well aware this team has a full 23 games left to besmirch their bedsheets so I’ll refrain from crowning anyone’s ass until the season’s over, but if they go 3-1 on the current roadie and finish strong, who on earth is going to want to face them... or stop them?