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A New Sun Rises: Shaq Moves To Phoenix
By Clayton Ruley

The great Shaquille O'Neal was recently traded to the Phoenix Suns and there are questions around the big man's effectiveness these days! He's been oft-injured, the Miami Heat has one of the league's worst records (due in part to my first statement) and Shaq has shown wear since he traded to the Heat from the Lakers.

So why would Phoenix make a deal for a mid-thirties center obviously past his prime?
Because they don't need him to be the Shaq of old and they needed to put all their cards on the table because Steve Nash and company aren't getting any younger!

Phoenix has regularly been a playoff team and won over 50 games but when they have played the San Antonio Spurs and even the Dallas Mavericks have struggled with inside presence! Struggle no more because even if Shaq can run with the team he will certainly make an impact in the middle clogging it and making people pass around him on defense! On offense the team has plenty of weapons and losing backup point guard and regular All-Star Shawn Marion won't change that!

The Suns are blessed to have a player like Boris Diaw to fill in admirably for Marion and also the veteran Grant Hill so the small forward position should be cool! Also Phoenix doesn't have to try and trot Amare Stoudamire out there at the center spot and watch him get eaten up in the playoffs by someone bigger and stronger! Now they can let Amare guard his natural power forward position and let Shaq do his thing in the middle!

Shaq has never been a shot blocking king but he will do a nice job down in the middle and while I don't know whether this mean a championship, I do credit Sun's General Manager Steve Kerr for pulling the trigger on a move with the potential to get the Suns to the promise land! Steve Nash has a bad back and won't be around forever.

This team has been one of the most exciting teams ever and this move puts them on equal playing ground with the Spurs, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Mavericks (provided the Mavs get PG Jason Kidd or another top flight PG like they've been talking about). In the west it's anyone's guess who is coming out! The Suns just got on the short list!

Suns' coach Mike D'Antoni is a great offensive mind and will find a way for Shaq to work and I think Shaq will respond well to the criticism and get his act together! Shaq feels like he's an underdog now, which is important, and will prepare like he's got something to prove! He won't be an MVP or not even an All-Star but he will show why they traded for him!

Shaq is back in purple. This time with some orange in it!

As for Miami, Shaq brought them what they so coveted, a ring, and his job with them was coming to a close! The team was among the oldest in the league and need to turnover and got two good pieces in Marion and Marcus Banks. With Jason Williams possibly leaving in the off-season there's a good chance Banks could start next season (if he plays well) and Dwyane Wade and Marion should be a very nice uptempo combination for years to come!

Marion is overrated and underrated at the same time because while he doesn't do anything particularly great he does everything very good! He's a beast on the boards and has one of the best second jumps in the league! It willb be interesting to see Marion play without a distributor because he's benefitted from Kidd, Stephon Marbury and Nash in the past, especially in halfcourt sets!

Pat Riley has retooled before and has done a good job getting a lot for a little (at least Shaq's value was on this current Heat team). With the low draft pick they are getting this year due to their terrible record they will get another piece to the puzzle and be well on their way back to respectability. In reality as long as the have Wade they have the hardest part solved!

A player who can take over a game is a priceless commodity in the league! There are plenty of teams with good players in the league but they struggle to find that go-to guy! Miami has a young one with championship experience and he's a winner too!

Any questions, comments, suggestions email Clayton at

Shaq is looking for his fifth championship ring and the Suns first



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