Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shaq's New "Partner In Crime"

It started as Shaq and Penny. Then Shaq and Kobe wreaked havoc on the rest of the league. Three championships later, Shaq and D-Wade tore things up for a couple seasons. And now, another title later, Shaq and LeBron will see where they can take this train. Shaquille O'Neil has certainly benefited from his share of strong partnerships in the NBA. He has played with two of today's best and when the NBA season tips off next season, he will begin his next journey with another player whose undeniable talent will put him in the discussion for 'best ever' by the time he's finished.

Shaq is unquestionably in the discussion for best big man ever and, although he is at the tail end of his career and less productive than in years past, his pairing with LeBron James in Cleveland will, to say the least, stir things up a bit in the East.

Shaq's move to Phoenix was anticlimactic. The Suns failed to reach the playoffs and O'Neil's numbers were less than impressive in comparison with his previous efforts. Still, with the Big Aristotle on the court the Cavs will finally have the big man they've so clearly lacked. It will prove vital to a team who has struggled to contain big men, most notably in this year's playoff loss to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.

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More than anything, what Shaq brings to Cleveland is his presence. There is no questioning the effect that Shaq has on his teammates' ability to defy what we ever thought possible. Kobe and Wade have the ability to find their own shot and create opportunities for their teammates. Combined with O'Neil's presence and the respect he demands from opposing defenses, Kobe and Wade were given a little breathing room defenses should never give to players of their caliber. And now LeBron James will finally feel that little extra freedom. That tiny, minuscule fragment of time that the defender wastes thinking of Shaq will be enough for LeBron to go in for the kill. As it was for Kobe and Wade, it will be for LeBron as well.

The trade sends Shaq to Cleveland in exchange for guard Sasha Pavlovic and aging center Ben Wallace. The Suns will also receive $500,000 and tonight's 46th pick. For Cleveland, their benefit is obvious. They get one of the most dominant big men in the history of basketball. He may not be the same force that he was in Los Angeles or even in his first two years in Miami, but with Shaq on the court LeBron will instantly benefit. Perhaps the reason O'Neil was not as effective in Phoenix is because he was not paired with a dynamic player of the same caliber and style as Kobe or Wade. In Cleveland, he will find himself in the familiar waters excellence. A relationship of mutualism will exist between LBJ and the Big Shaqalier (my favorite of the nicknames already flooding the Internet).

In Phoenix, there cannot be too many tears shed over O'Neil's departure. The Big Diesel failed to lead the Suns to the playoffs this season and was never the inside force that the Suns brass was hoping. We may be seeing the beginning of a rebirth in Phoenix. Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash are still under contract and will keep the core of this team intact as Steve Kerr and the rest of the front office scurry to rebuild after years of falling just short of the ultimate prize.

As was the case two years ago when Boston's Big Three first came together, it's safe to say we can expect some championship predictions in the coming days, or all draft night long. I can't wait for the first time LeBron lobs one up for the big man to throw down.

Written By Danny Hobrock