Shaq to Phoenix? Very interesting. At first, I didn’t like it, but the more I think about it, the more I recognize two things. 1) The Suns current mix didn’t work in the playoffs year after year. And 2) Boris Diaw might not be that far from Shawn Marion in many respects. Oh, and 3) Steve Nash is eventually going to get old, right?
So, in conclusion, it took guts. But, Steve Kerr apparently has them:
Word From Phoenix – this is going to happen ….
This is going to happen. In Steve Kerr's biggest decision to pull a trigger since that 1997 Finals 3-pointer, he will trade Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquiiiiiiiiiiiiiile O'Neal, barring some medical disclosure that would cause the Suns to call it off after examining O'Neal today in Phoenix. All parties attached to this deal believe so.
The Suns have already canceled their morning shootaround for today. That's another sign. And, really, could Phoenix call off this deal and ask Marion to go out and bust his butt shuffling between covering Chris Paul and David West?
This came out of nowhere, especially considering the recent statements from Robert Sarver about not trading a core player and Steve Kerr about the importance of continuity. This apparently was initiated out of Miami at the start of the week. Dallas was supposedly in on the talk too with one source saying Josh Howard being included but another source saying there would be no way Dallas would move Howard.
So what does this do to Phoenix.
Better defense? O'Neal can still protect the rim and hold his own as a one-on-post defender. However, the Suns lose Marion's versatile defense and activity. Steve Nash can't handle all of the top point guards and Marion often hid that. Perhaps Grant Hill can do some of that now.
Better rebounding? O'Neal would seemingly help Phoenix to get out of last in yielding offensive rebounds. But the Suns also lose their leading rebounder in Marion, who was averaging 9.9.
Same style? O'Neal has lost a step or 32 in his 15th year and was the main reason Phoenix was so upset about losing the conference finals to Dallas. The Suns figured they could have run O'Neal off the floor. It's an odd coupling, pairing up a past-his-prime behemoth with health issues with Mike D'Antoni's rapid-fire offensive style. But people tend to not realize that Phoenix almost never has a five-man fastbreak. The Suns look for such quick shots that no more than two or three need to push it. Like Kurt Thomas, O'Neal can be the rebounder or inbounder who starts the break.
Same scoring? The Suns don't run much of a post-up offense, except for Boris Diaw to pass and occasionally shoot. O'Neal is actually a pretty deft passer out of the post and the elbow so he might be just fine in a ball-moving offense, although it is supposed to be a people-moving, well-spaced one too. He pretty much would seem to be opposite Steve Nash's and Amare Stoudemire's pick-and-roll work to take the occasional duck-in for a slam. Just hope he doesn't get fouled too much or Brian Skinner will start looking like a good free throw shooter.
Same spryness? Marion is 29. O'Neal is 35, closing in on 36. It'll be O'Neal (35), Grant Hill (35), Steve Nash (soon to be 34), Raja Bell (31) and Amare Stoudemire (25) in the starting lineup. But give the Suns athletic training staff a chance and maybe they can work some more of their magic on O'Neal.
This pretty much cinches that Boris Diaw better get used to coming off the bench and doing it better. This could help that because his role will expand and there will be more of an onus on him. He usually responds to that. But then again, it's still coming off the bench. It looks like D'Antoni gets to settle into an 8-man rotation with Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and some Brian Skinner off the bench.
Another perspective ….
The fastest, flashiest team in the NBA could be getting a lot slower — but much larger — because of a blockbuster trade few could have seen coming.
The improbable pairing of the Phoenix Suns and Shaquille O'Neal went from rumor to near-reality overnight with several media outlets reporting that the big center would be here Wednesday for a physical.
On Tuesday night, the Suns pushed back their scheduled shootaround on Wednesday from 9:45 a.m. MST to 4:45 p.m., shortly before they face the New Orleans Hornets.
The deal would send unhappy forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks to the Heat.
It would also signal an unexpected change in philosophy for the Suns, adding a 7-foot-1, 325-pound center who has won four NBA championships but has been plagued by injuries in recent years and turns 36 next month. O'Neal has been out with a hip injury and underwent an MRI exam in Miami on Tuesday.
For the three-plus seasons since Steve Nash came to town, Phoenix and its ultra up-tempo style have been the frenetic darlings of NBA fans grown weary of the slow style that has prevailed for years. But the Suns have fallen short in the playoffs, never even making it to the finals.
Marion, unhappy being third fiddle to Nash and Amare Stoudemire, asked to be traded before the season began. Stoudemire, meanwhile, dislikes playing out of position at center. The Suns have the best record in the West (34-14) but have not played up to their own or fans' expectations.
O'Neal is prepared for a trade, a confidant of his told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.
O'Neal's associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal anything publicly, said a deal could be imminent.
"Shaq thinks something will happen," the associate said.
He didn't speak to reporters before leaving Miami's practice. The Heat plays at Detroit on Wednesday.
The Miami Herald reported earlier Tuesday that the Heat are in "serious and ongoing" trade negotiations with the Suns, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said the deal could occur "within 48 hours." A Heat spokesman said the team had no comment.
On the Ice, the Stars got a decent win, against a very depleted Vancouver Blue Line …
The Canucks were without five of their regular defensemen – Willie Mitchell (back), Kevin Bieksa (calf), Luka Krajicek (shoulder), Mattias Ohlund (personal) and Aaron Miller (foot) all missed the game. Vancouver filled the lineup with a mostly minor league defense, but the group played well and the Stars failed to put enough pressure on to see if it would crack.
Dallas waded into the game – neither team was able to put a shot on goal in the first seven minutes – then watched as Vancouver took the lead on a power-play goal at the 12:50 mark of the first period.
Dallas saw an early end to its run of 22 consecutive penalty kills as Markus Naslund scored. The top-ranked penalty kill in the league was foiled when Mason Raymond made a nice touch pass to Naslund in the slot, and he one-timed a shot over Turco.
But the Stars bounced back and scored a gritty goal at 16:40 of the first period to tie the score. Mike Ribeiro made a nice play along the boards to get the puck to Brenden Morrow, and Morrow uncorked a one-timer from the left circle. The puck went sailing toward a scrum at the net, and deflected in off the skate of Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows. Jeff Halpern had created the scrum by driving hard to the net and pulling Burrows in front of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
Dallas then capitalized on its power play in the second period, as Morrow made a slick backhand pass into the slot and Jere Lehtinen deflected the puck between Luongo's legs for a 2-1 lead at the 7:11 mark.
"Same old Lehts, he does it all," Morrow said of Lehtinen's first goal since returning from a sports hernia that kept him out for 33 games. "He looks like he hasn't missed a step."
The Canucks made a spirited stand to earn a point in the standings. Naslund added his second goal of the game and Luongo then stopped 13 shots in the third period – 32 for the game. That forced the shootout, where the Stars improved their shootout record, the NHL's best, to 26-7.
Jussi Jokinen scored first for Dallas, and Naslund scored for Vancouver. Morrow then put in a wrister as the sixth shooter and Turco came up with a stop to give Dallas two points in the standings.
"Right now, everybody in the Western Conference is so tight that it's important to
play a full 60 minutes and get whatever points we can," Ribeiro said.
The Stars have won seven consecutive regular season games against the Canucks at American Airlines Center. It is the second longest active home winning streak against one opponent in the NHL.
"We'll take the points and run," Stars coach Dave Tippett said.
dnspostarsdate.3b4d6c3.html> Also, the Stars are bounced out of the Forsberg game …even though they were likely never in…
Jackson said he spoke with Forsberg's representatives Friday "and made them an offer, and on Saturday, they called back and said he was going to pursue other options. I think we made a good effort, but now we move on."
Forsberg, 34, is an unrestricted free agent fighting his way back from a foot injury. The Stars contacted him in October, when then-GM Doug Armstrong went to Sweden to visit him. The Stars continued to express interest to agent Don Baizley even after Armstrong was fired in November, and the courtship hit a key point last week.
"He would have been a good guy, because you could have gotten him without giving up an asset," Jackson said.
Jackson said he was targeting Forsberg as a linemate for Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen. Forsberg has to be signed by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, and several competitive teams in the Western Conference are said to be wooing him. In addition, Pacific Division rivals San Jose and Anaheim are in the market to upgrade their rosters with trades.
Jackson said the Stars don't want to get into a war to add players.
"If you get caught up in that game, that's when you make a mistake," Jackson said. "We have a good team, I really think we do. We know what we want, but you have to be patient and you have to be able to make that deal. I think knowing what you want is a big key, because otherwise you're just kicking tires and you don't really have any direction."
Stars pursue Brunnstrom: Jackson was in Sweden last week scouting Fabian Brunnstrom. He said the Stars are among approximately 20 teams wooing the 23-year-old unrestricted free agent. Brunnstrom is a late developer who went undrafted. He scored 37 goals among 73 points in 41 games at the second-tier level in Sweden last season, and has 33 points in 42 games at the elite level this year.
"There's lots of teams in on it," Jackson said. "It's like college recruiting, so you have to just convince him you're the best fit for him."
Brunnstrom cannot play in the NHL until next season, Jackson said.
That Brunnstrom kid is what you should hope for. Good luck, but it would sure be nice…
Joe Sheehan with a Rangers thought or two …
Where: Surprise, Arizona (Cactus League)
2007 record: 75-87 (4th, AL West)
New guys: Milton Bradley, Ben Broussard, Josh Hamilton, Kazuo Fukumori, Eddie Guardado, Jason Jennings
Gone guys: Jerry Hairston Jr., Victor Diaz, Kenny Lofton (Ed. Note: He left last summer.--JSS), Akinori Otsuka, Sammy Sosa, Edinson Volquez, Brad Wilkerson
Wow, he’s still here? The Rangers dumped a lot of veterans over the winter, but they retained Frank Catalanotto. The veteran lefty bat doesn’t have a clear line on a job, and with the Rangers needing to make decisions on guys like Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz, and David Murphy, Catalanotto is a good candidate to end up elsewhere.
Winter grade: B. The Volquez-for-Hamilton trade was a good upside play for a team that had no good center-field option. Jennings and Bradley are nice low-investment free-agent plays, as is bringing in Fukumori, the veteran Japanese reliever. One good winter isn’t going to be enough for this team, however.
NRI to watch: Catcher Taylor Teagarden is in camp following a .310/.426/.586 season split between the Cal and Texas Leagues. He’s not a threat to make the team. However, follow how well he throws nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and whether he’s able to handle regular work behind the plate. In a system lousy with catchers, he’s maybe the best of the bunch if healthy.
Job battle to track: C.J. Wilson starts the season as the closer, and his effectiveness late last year aside, his hold on the job is something shy of firm. He has the mechanics and the splits of a specialist, not a closer. Eddie Guardado lurks, and teams love giving him a shot at the job. Realistically, Joaquin Benoit or even Frank Francisco are candidates to take over at midseason.
One move to make: There’s not much chance that the Rangers can hang with the Angels this season or next, so Jon Daniels needs to continue 2007’s good work by dealing Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, and even Michael Young as opportunities arise.
The Rangers will probably get out of the AL West cellar in 2008, if only because the A’s will be free-falling past them on their way to 98 losses. Whether they can finish above third for the first time since 1999 depends on assembling a back end of the rotation, and how healthy a collection of injury cases can stay. A lightning strike—like getting 1500 PAs out of Bradley, Hamilton, and Hank Blalock while Jennings, Kevin Millwood, and Vicente Padilla all recreate their peak seasons—could make them a contender, but in the long term, they’d be better off turning whatever good first halves they get into more prospect packages in the Mark Teixeira vein.
Mench to the Yankees? …
The Yankees have interest in free agent Kevin Mench as a fifth outfielder, according to a person with knowledge of discussions who asked not to be named because no deal has been struck.
Meanwhile, Robinson Cano's four-year, $30 million contract should be completed as soon as the team has results of a physical he took last week, agent Bobby Barad said.
Mench, 30, would probably go to Yankees camp on a minor-league contract. He would give the Yankees a right-handed option in the outfield, where Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu are lefties and Melky Cabrera is a switch-hitter. Shelley Duncan is right-handed but could win the first-base job.
"We're always open to doing business if we can do something that can help us," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We've got a lot of left-handed bats. We'll see."
The interest in Mench could also have something to do with the Yankees' efforts this winter to trade Cabrera. According to a person who has discussed the situation with the Yankees and asked not to be named because he is not an authorized team spokesman, the team earlier this offseason was looking into dealing Cabrera -- to Minnesota for Johan Santana, or elsewhere -- because the Yankees figured his value was at its peak.
I forgot about this key story this week, but it should be noted: Monk and Green are Redskins in the Hall of Fame now …
FINALLY. That's what Redskins fans said when one of the NFL's greatest all-time wide receivers won election to the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Characteristically, Art Monk himself was more humble: "Whether I deserved to play in the NFL or deserve even to be in Hall of Fame, I just loved the game, loved to play, loved being out there," he told sportswriters.
Mr. Monk was one of a trio of receivers dubbed "the posse" who played in the 1980s. Former coach Joe Gibbs said he "sacrificed for the team" as an inside receiver, blocking and catching short passes rather than snaring highlight-film bombs. Former defensive end Charles Mann called his friend "Mr. Third Down," the go-to guy when the team needed six or seven yards. In his 16-year career, Mr. Monk went to four Super Bowls with the 'Skins, helping secure three victories. The first player to have more than 900 career receptions, he was a three-time all-pro selection.
Joining Mr. Monk in the Hall is his friend Darrell Green, a Washington cornerback from 1983-2002. His teammates dubbed Mr. Green "The Ageless Wonder" for his high level of play late into his career. He retired at age 42, the oldest Redskin. During his career, he had 54 interceptions, went to the Pro Bowl seven times, and was an all-pro selection four times.
Wire Season 5, episode 5 breakdown …
Matt Damon vs. Jimmy Kimmel comedy …
Josh Howard’s Crib
A Very Young Darrell Green