Allow me to play devil’s advocate here for a second.
I’m with the rest of the majority in that several times over the past two days, I’ve wondered out loud, “What in the name of Dan Majerle are the Suns thinking?”
To me, trading away a versatile offensive threat in Shawn Marion to get a 35-year-old, banged-up center with a contract the size of Yao Ming, doesn’t make any sense.
Maybe – just maybe – by trading for Shaquille O’neal, Suns GM Steve Kerr has broken that glass ceiling that’s kept his team from the NBA Finals so many times in years past.
Look, I don’t need to go on about how Shaq can’t run and gun up and down the court with Steve Nash and the Suns, but is that what he is really being brought in to do?
Is anyone else reminded of the Sacramento Kings of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when they look at the Suns?
Not in terms of the style of game they play, but in terms of years of regular season dominance and early playoff success resulting in bupkis come June.
Every year, a lot of people both in and out of Sacramento thought it was the Kings’ year.
Well, once again, the Suns have the best record in the NBA and once again they are the highest-scoring team in the NBA. Once again, everything looks peachy keen in the desert right before all-star break.
It must have been in the back of Kerr’s mind, that once the playoffs start, and things start to slow down, and the Spurs start to grind away at their opponents, that the Suns are just not tough enough, defensive enough and efficient enough out of a half-court offense.
Enter: The Diesel.
I’ve heard people speculate that Suns coach Mike D’Antoni will move the undersized Amare Stoudemire to power forward, and let O’neal run the paint.
Well, I’m not buying that, but I would buy this:
The Suns acquired Shaq to come off the bench in the playoffs.
There comes a time in a playoff series, when a team needs something besides points.
There comes a time when a team has to wear down it’s opponents by overpowering them. Over the course of six or seven games, Tim Duncan will wither Stoudemire down to nothing. Bruce Bowen will make it impossible to find open shots, and the Spurs will ultimately come out looking tougher and stronger than their opponents.
O’neal can remedy a lot that for the Suns. When it’s time to use up the shot clock, and play a little defense (I know, what a scary thought for the Suns), Shaq is the man.
Without Shaq, the Lakers’ revamped frontcourt would stomp all over the Suns in the playoffs. They still might, but at least Phoenix now has someone to make Andrew Bynum and Pao Gasol fight for their points.
Of course, in all this I’m disregarding the fact that the Suns just sent one of the most dynamic players in the game three time zones away.
Marion is one of the few guys on the Suns who can slow it down if need be. He can get open looks even in a slow-paced game, he can rebound, and his size makes him very tough to check for a whole game – let alone a whole series.
The Suns are going to miss him, and there is no way around that.
However, Marion did this to himself. He’s been asking for a trade since the summer, for absolutely no reason.
Oh, I know he gave a reason, but asking to be dealt because you’re jealous of the attention that Nash and Stoudemire receive is not actually a reason.
Marion says he’s pleased with the trade.
Yeah, I buy that almost as much as Terrell Owens’ fake tears.
Hey, what player in their right mind wouldn’t want to trade 34 wins for 39 losses, right?
If he is that much happier being the second option on the worst team in the league, than he is as the third option on the best, than his priorities are well out of whack (and he may want to talk to someone about his insecurities).
But, the bottom line is, we’re going to see a different Suns team this year in the playoffs.
Will it be a better Suns team?
I don’t think so, but I’m trying to give Kerr the benefit of the doubt. He could see that turning the NBA playoffs into a track meet and launching threes just wasn’t working.
It was time to take a gamble, and we’ll have to wait and see if it was the right one.