Shaquille O’Neal in Phoenix.
Still trying to get my head around that one.
Still, like an asteroid’s impact, the tremors of Shaq’s landing will be felt around the league, especially in the very tight Western Conference.
So… what will the effect be on the multitude of franchises? You gotta wonder how some of the big-boys’ll react…
Let’s explore a few of the stronger teams out there:
A lot of people believe that this puts a helluva lot of pressure on the Mavs to try and make a trade for Jason Kidd… and to be honest, Dallas could use a little help. However, not J-Kidd. The Mav’s Devin Harris has been doing a good job this year at the point, and in a few years time will be an excellent point guard.
Where the Mavericks could use some help is at the 2 slot, Josh Howard seems to be fitting into the small forward role, and neither Devean George nor Eddie House are the answer at SG. There are a few guys on the market that would help, but none more so than Mike Miller – he’d slot right in quite nicely.
Other than that, the one thing Dallas should do is not panic… they’re playing good ball, and change for change’s sake is never a good thing.
San Antonio Spurs
An odd one: most of the time it wouldn’t be a worry for the Spurs to be a little behind prior to the All-Star break, but this year, they seem… older. And not in a good way. I’m not entirely confident Tony Parker comes back as the same ol’ Tony Parker. The fact that San Antonio picked up Damon Stoudemire tells me that the brains-trust there has the same concern. Tim Duncan looks sluggish, and Manu’s even more inconsistent this year. Still… it’s never wise to declare the Spurs done, and I’ll wait for a while after the All-Star break before applying a standing count. Something tells me that Tim, Manu, Tony & co. have a few more good seasons in them.
Los Angeles Lakers
Only a recent addition to ‘elite’ status, with their own recent addition of Pau Gasol – and Andrew Bynum’s rapid rise to being one of the better young centers in the league – Kobe’s crew are now ready to ascend.
Shaq-in-Phoenix doesn’t really affect what LA will do against the Suns – as the Lakers have done very, very well versus the Suns of recent times. They will see if the Shaq/Stoudemire tandem can beat their own talls in Bynum/Gasol.
Given the mobility of LA’s pair, and Amare’s struggles with defense, my money’d be on the Lakers. The team has the ability to really space the floor, and kick it out to any number of marksmen. Phil Jackson will revel in this match-up against the former LA big fella.
What do LA need to do? Be patient with Bynum when he returns from injury…
New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans have a really exciting core group – a powerful forward with good touch in David West… Peja Stojakovic – a sharpshooter that’s amongst the best in the entire league… Tyson Chandler, a very good young center who averages a double/double (12 pts, 12 rebounds)… and a point guard who makes everyone better, perhaps the heir to Steve Nash – Chris Paul. All the components of a title-winning team.
The thing the Hornets lack is something that is very hard to gain – experience.
It’ll come, but this year the Hornets will struggle come playoffs to put away teams in a 7 game series.
Boston – the favourite. And deservedly so.
Definitely a team that has all the tools to easily cope with O’Neal’s presence in Phoenix.
At the beginning of the season, there were concerns over the amount of time that the ‘big 3’ of Garnett, Pierce & Allen were playing.
Early on, it appeared to be an unfounded worry – with Boston virtually steamrolling everyone they played, KG turning them into a defensive powerhouse.
Now, Kevin Garnett has a strained abdominal muscle. Without him, Boston appear to be a little lost at times – only just falling in against the lowly T-Wolves. To be fair, the next game they torched the Spurs – sans Garnett. But consistency is necessary. When KG returns, will he be the same? It’s a question that will be plaguing the Boston brain-trust. When Shaquille O’Neal had a similar injury, it was evident that he wasn’t the same player post returning (in the same season).
Boston also lack depth – despite the good play of Rajon Rondo. At the point, is he really the guy you want distributing in a playoff series? Boston will trade for depth at that spot.
And they need to.
Detroit are in an interesting position. It would appear that the mere presence of Boston has energised/re-vitalised the Pistons.
A motivated Detroit is a very tough team to play, as there’s no one guy you have to stop. You stop ‘Sheed, then Billups is there. Stop him, maybe it’s Tayshaun Prince who strikes. Or Rip.
Detroit don’t really need to do anything but stay enthusiastic. Something they haven’t really struggled with thus far.