He is a man of many nicknames. The Diesel. Superman. The Big Aristotle. Or just plain Shaq. fans of the Phoenix Suns have long lamented that the team has never had a legitimate force at center.
It has had talented players in the pivot — Alvan Adams probably tops among them — but never a bona fide beefy guy to score, rebound, block shots and defend the lane. Suns general manager Steve Kerr, coach Mike D’Antoni and owner Robert Sarver are hopeful they have taken care of all of that in trading for Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal.
The big guy didn’t come cheap, costing the Suns one of their most versatile and popular players in Shawn Marion, along with guard Marcus Banks (basically to even up the salary load each team was taking on). And as soon as rumors of the deal began leaking out, many Suns fans were apoplectic over the thought of dealing the multi-talented Marion for O’Neal, a battle-worn, 35-year-old hulking mass who they were convinced would impede the Suns’ fast-break offense.
O’Neal said all the right things in Thursday’s news conference — including vowing to make his critics “eat their words.” So we are of a mind to play wait-and-see, and give O’Neal a chance to live up to his words.
Years ago, the Suns traded for a larger-than-life character in Charles Barkley, who put the team on his back and carried it to the 1993 NBA Finals, where the team lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. O’Neal, a 14-time All Star with a multitude of endorsements, a movie career and volunteer law enforcement duties, would seem to be larger-than-larger-than-life — especially considering his 7-1, 321-pound frame. That may be enough to get the Suns the title that has eluded them.
Stay tuned — either way, this is certain to be entertaining.