Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WTF: Phoenix Suns Edition

We occasionally like to think of ourselves as not simply a Boston Celtics blog but in fact a warmer, more generally inclusive basketball blog. This is apparently one of those occasions, as I'm finding it difficult to make it through the day without posting some sort of comment on one of the more bizarre sports maneuvers in recent memory: namely, the Phoenix Suns' now-official acquisition of soon-to-be-36-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. The Suns gave up Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to acquire The Big Fella/The Diesel/Shaq-Fu/Kazaam!, and the general feeling around the League is that Steve Kerr is crazy... crazy like a FOX!!!! No, actually, just crazy. John Hollinger--himself a proud iconoclast--has practically blown a gasket;'s Marty Burns opens his observations with a quote from Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" (he's got his finger on the pulse of young America); and, as usual, FreeDarko provides the most cogent summation, noting that Steve Kerr has cynically turned his back on the dream.

I'm not sure what to make of it. The Suns are a great team with a great coach and a jury-is-still-out GM in Kerr, who's certainly figured out a way to get his name out there if nothing else. Jack McCallum, who probably knows the Suns better than anyone not on their payroll--and apparently better than Steve Kerr--writes that the mood around the Suns' locker room this season has been less than sunny, and let's face it, by all accounts Shawn Marion's a bit of a pouty dick. His numbers are certainly down this year, and maybe the Suns were trying to send a message about chemistry, but that's a pretty unrealistic justification and it's honestly the best I can come up with. It sure as hell isn't a salary dump--Shaq makes $40m over the next two years--and given Shaq's age and rather startling decline in production it's difficult to see how the Suns got "better" through this trade in any conventional sense of that word. Optimistic minds have argued that this move will allow Amare Stoudemire to play more at the 4, his "natural" position, but a good part of me honestly wonders if Stoudemire is better as an undersized center in the Suns' balls-out offense than a conventional power forward in a traditional half-court one, which is clearly what Phoenix is moving towards by acquiring such a resolutely half-court player as O'Neal. Stoudemire's mid-range jumper sucks, and the vast majority of his effectiveness comes from his creating chaos around the basket, which is the sort of thing that a lumbering Shaquille O'Neal will make difficult if not impossible. Much is being made of the "I won't let you down" phone call that Shaq allegedly placed to Steve Nash, but that would have been a hell of a lot more meaningful five years ago, when Shaq's only problem was motivation. The reason Shaquille O'Neal is no longer a dominant player isn't because he doesn't give a shit--although this season he probably doesn't--but rather because he's 35 years old and hasn't exactly spent his career on the Kevin Garnett workout regimen.

I don't know, I for one consider this a sad day. The Phoenix Suns were everything good about basketball for the past few years; last year they should have won it all and instead got jobbed by the refs and the League. There should have been a revolution, and now all we've got is a big middle finger from Steve Kerr, a former Spur, I might add. They've destroyed something beautiful; in the words of Johnny Rotten, ever get the feeling you've been cheated?


Tim said...

The Suns explanation probably has something to do with what Dime was talking about yesterday
This move is based primarily on the Playoffs - where Marion has recently underwhelmed, and Shaq could perhaps be that piece in the middle that could help them finally overtake the Spurs (Or beat the Lakers, Mavericks or Hornets). Color me skeptical like most, particularly when you look at Shaq's salary, but maybe Kerr knows something we all don't. Otherwise he better be ready to be mentioned with Isiah.

Anonymous said...

Yeah maybe Kerr knows something, but I doubt it (although I hope he does!). I agree that Kerr has ruined "something beautiful." As a big Suns fan, I am quite puzzled about this trade.

Also this brings up the question of, like Jack said-- Could Marion really be that much of a pain in the ass? Maybe so. He can run and gun, shoot, get boards, and play good defense. He averages more rebounds than Shaq. I never really agreed with the whole "chemistry" idea. It's what happens on the court, not off the court, that matters. But maybe Marion is that much of a head-case that he makes the team worse.

Or... maybe Kerr has been smoking crack.