Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shaq, Kobe, and Tyronne it 2002?

Much has been made about the Shaq-to-Phoenix trade, and I'm not sure there's a lot more to say that hasn't already been said. Like most other sports observers out there, I was stunned by the deal - I thought it was a joke at first - and have serious doubts about the wisdom of the trade for Phoenix. As a Lakers fan, I'm not sorry to see Phoenix break up its run and gun core. At the end of the day, I don't think either old Phoenix or new Phoenix can beat the Lakers in a 7-game series - so might as well bring in the Diesel and have some amusement, no?

The strangest thing is Phoenix's reasoning. So far, I've heard that they want to move Amare to the 4, want to improve their defense, and want to match up better with big teams out west. First, Amare is not better as a 4. He doesn't bang inside with centers anyway, so this doesn't save him any wear and tear. As a 4, he'll lose quickness advantages over slower centers, and Shaq will clog the lane so he won't be able to get all the way to the basket on pick and rolls anymore with a help defender only a few feet away.

As for improving defense, Phoenix might want to look for a long, quick, athletic forward who can guard multiple positions and disrupt opposing offenses. Someone like Scottie Pippen...or Shawn Marion! How does trading your best defender solve any defensive issues? And as for matching up - the best Phoenix can be now is a crappier version of the Nash-Dirk Mavs that never went anywhere. Diaw, Hill, Bell, and to a lesser extent Amare are all better transition players than half-court players too.

I expect Shaq to have a nice 10 games to make some people think things will be okay, and then go down with some injury. The Suns now are starting Nash (bad back), Hill (bad ankles and apparently a suspect appendix), Shaq (bad...everything), and Amare (surgically reconstructed knee). Good luck with that.

Tonight's loss to Atlanta was disappointing. The Lakers never seemed to have much energy and played like it was...well, like it was the second night of a back-to-back in the middle of a 9 game road trip against a below-average Eastern conference team. Not that that's a good excuse. There were definitely positives though - Lamar looked great and can obviously fit into this offense, Kobe continued to look extremely excited to play with his new toy (Bynum and then Gasol in the course of one season? This is the best Christmas ever for little Bean Bryant!), and Fisher remembered how to shoot. Then again, to balance it out, Sasha apparently can't keep track of the score, after a timeout, in the last 10 seconds of the game. Yay Sasha.

Watching the Lakers control a game with a one-handed Kobe kept bringing a smile to my face though. I would just sit there grinning when Pau caught a pass, then laid it in. Two things Kwame couldn't do! Amazing! He needs to be more aggressive in the post, but that will come.

Actually, the dynamic on the Lakers reminded me of what happens when a new guy comes to play with a bunch of friends - he doesn't want to shoot too much because he doesn't want to seem like a ballhog, but everyone else keeps trying to pass him the ball because they want to be nice. That led to more triangle offense than I've seen in months, a lot of nice ball movement, and tons of open shots. It also led to Pau looking like a white Lamar Odom at times - reluctant to shoot, and overpassing. At the end of the day, the Lakers just didn't have the energy to push a consistent 8-point lead to double digits, and it came back to bite them.

That, and the fact that Tyronne Lue is apparently allowed to set a moving chop-block to take out Kobe on the game-deciding play, and Joe Johnson is allowed to shove Fisher in the chest and get a foul called on the defender. Not that I think the officiating was bad on that play or anything.

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