A hearty congratulations goes out to Shaquille O’Neal. You’ve done what once seemed impossible: bring down my two favorite teams and bring them down hard. No, no, it wasn’t enough to watch your $20 million blob sleep in the paint and do nothing. Instead, the Heat had to trade you (just fine with me), but their partner, the Phoenix Suns just made it seem like a cruel joke. And yet, after a couple days I bought into the trade. “O yeah, this can work,” I wrote. “Phoenix can win a title with Shaq.”
True or false: I actually believed what I was saying? True, with huge hints of optimism.
True or false: Shaq has killed two franchises with one monstrous contract and an inability to say, alright, I quit? True.
After Denver ran Phoenix off of the court, dropping the new look Suns to 3-5 since his arrival, or for those of you keeping score at home: from 1st to 6th in a matter of weeks, it was clear this massive experiment has a long ways to go. And by the time it works (if it ever works) Phoenix may astonishingly find its way out of the playoffs. Yeah, the uber competitive Western Conference is that good. And the sketchy as heck Suns look that shaky.
Steve Nash is playing like he’s aged 3 years since Shaq arrived. Amare is getting his, but has also managed to somehow get worse defensively. Gordon Giricek has been brought in as a shooter, and all I saw him shoot yesterday was bricks. Raja Bell is a shell of the player he was a few years ago. Grant Hill gives it everything he’s got, but he simply can’t replace Marion. Boris Diaw plays with unchartered inconsistency, so much so that most Suns want to run him and his $45 million contract out of town.
Suns fans are fed up with Mike D’Antoni. His team has shown no defensive toughness or improvement since Shaq, and a lot of people are starting to think he’s a one trick offensive pony. The guy is a mastermind offensively, but bringing in Shaq was a big mistake. Even if Marion wasn’t good enough to win a title, the Suns could have been patient and tried to trade him for someone young with a much more flexible contract.
Unless Shaq miraculously retires in the off-season (not happening, with $20 million coming for two more years after this) Phoenix will probably go down with him. The most entertaining team the NBA has seen in years is looking older and less of a contender by the day. Trading Kurt Thomas looks dumber every minute. Ditching James Jones was a dud. Selling off a 2010 first rounder to Seattle could cause a nightmare in, well, 2010.
But the biggest deal, is that they have no bench. Playing 7 or 8 has worn down this team. Players are opting not to come here because they know that there are no minutes for them. Starters are getting worn down because they have nothing left for the playoffs. This is an old team, second oldest in the NBA. Things aren’t looking good.
And two more years of Shaq: well, let’s just say, he’s done it.
His contract screwed over the Heat. And how his contract and oldness is going to haunt the Suns.