Monday, March 10, 2008

Suns/Spurs and The Impact of The Big Saguaro...

...a.k.a The Big Diesel, The Big Aristotle, The Big Cacti, The Big-gie size Number 5 with Cheese, The Big Montezuma, The Big Divorcee, The Big Guy from Blue Chips I think his name was Neon, The Big Kazaam, etc. Will not be known as The Big trade bust for Mr. Steve Kerr.

You heard me right, and yesterday's game was the singular reason the Suns acquired Shaq. I said it the day the trade happened and everyone in the world (correctly) predicted that the Suns would drop, and that Shaq couldn't play their style of game. I agreed that this would happen but I still said it was a great pick-up for the Suns. People looked at me like I was Shaq's agent pitching him the lead role in Steel.

For those of you who don't have friends who are avid Suns fans (have been for at least 3 years or as long as Nash has been here) or don't live in AZ then you may have seen the Suns full of promise fade away in the post-season in recent years for no real reason. They were so good during the regular season. They scored 120+ per game and had the MVP/Leading MVP Candidate on their team. Then the playoffs happened.
They were still able to score 100+ per game, usually, but were slowed down just a little bit. The Playoffs also showed the Suns major flaw. They can't play defense, and their Center, Amare Staudemire, isn't a Center. He especially isn't a defensive Center. The factors of slightly less points on the board coupled with a lack of defense and compounded on a series of games where the other team is able to learn and find ways to stop them and the Suns couldn't make it out of the West. Their 6 and 7 game series that almost always had an OT game and a few technicals for good measure, were exciting as hell, but in the end they didn't have enough gas in the tank or defense to make it out of the West.

Enter the Big Rehab Assignment. Shaq makes his way to the desert. Everyone is excited about the potential that can come from this guy. People want to see him succeed. The last true great center, one of the best of all time in a Suns uniform. But he's too big, too slow, too old to run with the run and gun team. Now the team is losing. Losing a lot more than they're used to (since most die-hard fans have only been fans for the last 3 years, and yes I'm talking to you Toodles). Fans were upset, everyone in the nation was telling the Suns just how bad of a move they made. I stayed quiet. The reason "Los Suns" (shouldn't they have been "Los Sols" in the Latin Noche) picked up Shaq and dealt, a potential annual All-Star in the East, Shawon Marion (who is 6-7 years younger) is for games like yesterday.

Yesterday Tim Duncan's line was 17 points 10 rebounds. A nice line, a double double in fact. In the last 11 playoff games versus Los Suns he is averaging a Double Double and his numbers are as follows:

2007 Playoffs vs. Suns
33-16 Win
29-11 Loss
33-19 Win
21-11 Loss
21-12 Win
24-13 Win
2005 Playoffs vs. Suns
28-15 Win
30-8 Win
33-15 Win
15-10 Loss
31-15 Win


With Shaq able to defend Duncan his numbers decrease. They might not seem like a tremendous decrease but look at it this way. With Shaq in the game Duncan is no longer their dump-off guaranteed bucket kind of guy, they come a little bit harder. And when the scores of the two teams are typically 7 (7.3 avg including the 20 point Suns win last year) points or less apart, taking 10 points away from Duncan could be the difference in a W and an L. (Yesterday's score differential 7 points).

Sure it wasn't a 100+ point game for either team. And Shaq still doesn't have the run 'n gun thing down yet, and probably won't. But in a 7 game series with a 2 time, coulda been 3 time MVP at the guard spot, and a Top-10 future Hall of Fame Center in the middle, things look good for a team that likes to score, a lot, and can actually play some D. Mr. Kerr brought in Shaq for one reason, to get by Los Spurs. And in a 7 game series they should be able to. But I don't think he expected the Lakers to take off like they have, and a Yao-less Houston looks increasingly better. If the new Shaq-led Suns can make it out of the west the question remains, can they get past the grind it down physical Pistons? It looks like the playoffs could be pretty good this year.