Monday, March 10, 2008

Slammin' ****a's like Shaquille, Shit is Real

It seems almost karmic that after two days after John Hollinger "keeps it real" by patting himself on the back and spewing to the world about how oh-so-right he was about hating the Shaq trade, Big dominated the first half of Sunday afternoon's Spurs-Suns game (March 9th, 2008, which also happened to be the 11th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s death) and set the tone for what would eventually be a Suns victory. I can gloat on and on about how I think Hollinger needs to pipe down, but I'd be doing the exact same thing he was - so never mind about that.

What I saw yesterday was Shaq being used correctly, or at least, Shaq getting to his key spots on the floor. Besides that pick-and-roll that he pulled off from above the free-throw line, most of his successfully-converted touches were inside the painted area. Not just on the block - but down in that gritty area around the basket where he did most of his damage as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic prior. The most memorable one was, I think, his first field goal (could have been his second) where he got Kurt Thomas caught inside the semi-circle and just flipped it up and in. Right after that, of course, was when Shaq was able to cut under the basket along the baseline, gobble up a pass (which would have otherwise sailed out of bounds) with his long arms -- again no more than three feet from the basket -- and power in a layup for the and-one play.

As much as I love Kurt Thomas' shooting and tough defense, when Shaq is that close, Kurt ain't holdin' down shit, son. Nor will many other people.

I'll have to use the excuse of ignorance here and say that, no, I haven't been able to catch all of the Suns games so as to make any well-informed analysis about why the Shaq trade didn't look like it was working out so well up until this point. Of the games I did see, I know that Shaq looked freakishly out of place trying to set high screen-and-rolls at the top of the key. I know that Shaq was getting his meals fed from about two feet from the block. I know that, at least from what I saw, the Suns' propensity to stand out there waiting for a three-point opportunity while Shaq got double-teamed didn't help all that much.

Back when he was with Phil Jackson running the triangle, the combination of cutters and spotters were constantly giving him more than one passing opportunity. When a dude's coming over to you and smothering your face with his armpits, you'd at least like for someone to be cutting around your right side for the quick hand-off in case you can't get the ball over to Nash for a long distance shot, right? But again, I didn't see all of their games, and maybe I'm forgetting whenever they did cut in the past. Anyway, I saw more movement on Sunday -- and this is not to say that Coach Mike D'Antoni should all of a sudden switch to the triple-post offense, but they would do well to move more instead of keep spotting up.

As the season comes to a close, I hope to see more of Shaq sealing down low and less of him popping out to set a high screen at the friggin' top of the key. A couple of times here and there to keep defenses honest would be great, but for Phoenix's sake I hope to never see it as commonly as I saw it in Shaq's first few games as a Sun. I hope Shaq doesn't wear out from all the hustle we've been seeing him demonstrate (diving into the crowd on Sunday? grabbing at least 13 rebounds four times in the last nine games? that's tasty), and I hope to dear god that someone is able to step up defensively on the perimeter to make up for Marion's absence.

I'm personally not sure whether or not the Shaq trade will ultimately lead the Suns to the promised land, or even if it benefits them more than it hurts them. But everything I saw from Shaq on Sunday hit on all the marks with regards to why the trade would be a good thing. Hopefully, they can leave all the negative marks -- alleged slow pick-and-roll defense, Shaq not always being able to run the floor with the rest of the team -- in the dust by the time the Playoffs roll around.

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

I also do not wish for Shaq to kill audience members with bodily contact. It just sounds nasty and I don't like clean-up.

Does this mean you're rooting for the Suns or the Shaq or just for the ending of John Hollinger's mouth-bmombs?