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Disastrous deal brings Shaq Daddy to the desert

Tae Andrews | Thursday, February 7, 2008

One of my roommates has a large Chevy Suburban with about 200,000 miles on it. It’s a gas-guzzling monstrosity which barely gets around and frequently breaks down. Just the other day it suffered a flat tire and is currently out of commission. Simply put, the Suburban is on its last legs.

According to ESPN.com, the Phoenix Suns have agreed to a deal with the Miami Heat in which they would trade forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks for one Shaquille O’Neal. The only thing holding up the swap is the completion of the necessary paperwork and for O’Neal to complete a requisite physical.

Sounds like a good deal for the Suns, right? Pair the star power of incumbent point guard Steve Nash with the man known as Shaq Daddy, then sit back, enjoy the show and fit everyone for rings come June, right?

Not so fast. Here’s where the Suburban comes in: the 2008 version of Shaq is not the slam-dunking, chest-thumping world beater of yore. He’s a banged-up sloppy jalopy with a lot of mileage on the odometer (turns 36 in March; 14 seasons) and a cash-guzzling contract. He’s already missed 14 games this season due to injury. How many miles does the Diesel have left in his size-21 tires?

The Suns may think they’re getting a supernova, but they’re really just getting a dying dwarf star. Shaq has been imploding during his recent years on the Miami Heat, his once-prodigious numbers shrinking to a shell of their former self while his waistline expands. They’re not getting a superstar, they’re getting a planet of a center with the mass of Jupiter and an even larger contract (two years, $40 million left on the deal after this season).

And good luck running a fun ‘n’ gun offense based on fast break points and hustle and bustle with O’Neal in the middle. It’s safe to say that no one has ever mistaken Shaq for a fitness freak, and unless he has been keeping up a secret midnight regimen of running windsprints, it would appear the Nash and company will leave him sucking wind and eating dust in the desert. You might as well force Steve Nash to play with ankle weights. Having Shaq on the Suns is the equivalent of my roommate selling the Suburban to Vin Diesel for use in the potential sequel “The Fast and the Furious: 4 Sure.”

Whatever you may think of his hideous shooting form, there can be no denying that Shawn Marion made for a perfect fit with the Suns’ high-octane, fast-paced brand of basketball. He fit with Coach Mike D’Antoni’s style of play. Shaq doesn’t.

At 34-14, the Suns have the best record. Whatever happened to if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

More than anything else, the trade may reflect a philosophical change in the Phoenix Suns. With two-time MVP Steve Nash running the show, the Suns of the 21st century have put on an up-tempo scoring show, known for furious fast breaks and the quick-strike scoring of “small ball.” However, despite the presence of the Great White North American Hope (Steve Nash hails from Canada), Leandro Barbosa (the 2006-07 NBA Sixth Man of the Year) and All-Stars Marion and Amare Stoudemire, the small-balling Suns haven’t managed to find a way to break through against the stifling defense of the four-time San Antonio Spurs, led by Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan.

After whiffing on an opportunity to pick up Kevin Garnett last off-season (and seeing his subsequent success with the Boston Celtics), perhaps Phoenix is trying to pick up Shaq to use as the anti-Duncan and other giants out west. Phoenix president of basketball operations and general manager Steve Kerr played on two championship teams with the Spurs, so perhaps the trade is a concession on Phoenix’s part that the Suns will have to focus on defense and interior post play in order to get past the Western Conference Finals so they can beat the snot out of whoever comes out of the East in the championship round. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – or at least try to imitate their brand of basketball.

Of course, Shaq might slim down, shape up and reinvent the artist formerly known as Shaq Fu as a svelte gazelle running the floor for easy buckets off Steve Nash dimes. It just doesn’t seem likely. As a player, Steve Kerr was known for his smooth outside shooting stroke. As a general manager, it looks like he bricked this one.

Contact Tae Andrews at tandrew1@nd.edu

The views expressed in Scene and Heard are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.