Suns running on Diesel

February 6, 2008

I was having a really tough time wrapping my arms around this Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks thing. This seems to be a bit more than rumor at this point, with Shaq even flying to the valley for a physical on Wednesday – he hasn’t played since January 21st because of a hip injury. If he passes, that’s it. Shaq is a Sun. So why on earth would Phoenix want to do this?

On the surface, this appears to be a bad move on all fronts. Shaq is old, lumbering and injury prone. The Suns play at high tempo. But apparently Steve Kerr and the gang don’t believe they can compete with the best in the West as they are currently comprised. Although I don’t think this move will work, it appears to be the only option if Phoenix wants to compete for a title this season. Amare Stoudemire can hang with Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan on his best nights, but that leaves guys like Brian Skinner to take on Erick Dampier and Fabricio Oberto – not awful matchups, but certainly tilted in favor of the opposition. Then there are the Lakers, who when healthy will throw out a front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Oh, and they’ve got that Kobe Bryant guy. Let’s not forget to mention Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets, or the upstart Hornets with their front line of Tyson Chandler and David West.

Marion and Stoudemire can hang with all of those groups offensively, but the Boston Celtics are proving that defense and chemistry are just as important as star power these days – and the Suns have bought in. Phoenix has been trying to trade Marion the last few years because of money and chemistry, anyway, but this deal is proving how little a factor the dollars are. Shawn has a publicized history of complaining about not being “the man” on the Suns despite the fact that Steve Nash has a lot to do with the numbers Marion puts up. And although Phoenix has spent most of this season winning, Mike D’Antoni was already making references to the team’s chemistry way back in early December when he talked following the Suns’ loss to the Wolves in Minnesota. He didn’t refer to Marion by name, but anyone who follows this team knows who he was talking about. 

Marion was no longer motivated by winning. He was motivated by style and money – two things Shaq has plenty of. He’s also got plenty of rings, but he’s also tasted losing recently – something Marion only gets around playoff time. Sure, Shaq brings age and injuries to the table, but as part of a winner, the Suns hope those words morph into experience and grit – thus providing Nash with a fellow veteran leader and an even bigger overall presence.

I played around with the trade machine on ESPN a bit because my first reaction to this trade was shock that Phoenix would put their fate in the hands of a fading 35-year old who is owed $20 million in each of the next two seasons. But to be honest, the Suns had few other options. No one in the Western Conference was about to give Phoenix a big man even with Marion as a return, and the Eastern Conference is void of experienced big men. The only guy who would make sense salary and experience-wise is Ben Wallace, but the Bulls already have enough guys at Marion’s position to start a small army, so they likely wouldn’t be interested in unloading their one serviceable center. So if Marion truly was causing unrest in the Phoenix locker room and coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t think it could be overcome enough for the Suns to continue trying to outscore people, this move actually ends up making some sense.

Is it a gamble? Absolutely, a bigger one than anyone probably expected Phoenix to take. But Nash certainly isn’t getting any younger, so why not add the Diesel, hope he can keep up, and hang on for the ride?

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2 Responses to “Suns running on Diesel”

  1. […] this trade?? Some people think it could be smart, while many thought it was a joke. In the end, what it is is a gamble. A gamble that could pay off in the area where previous great Suns teams have failed…with a […]

  2. erikbspecial said

    I pooped today.

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