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Big Cactus Shaq Gets Prickly
First, a disclaimer: I am not a Shaq hater. Really, I'm not. But even the best players can wear out their welcome and, let's face it, the Big Cactus has gotten a bit prickly of late. Personally I thought his game was sputtering the last two seasons he was in Miami, though the style of game the Heat were playing at the time did a lot to mask Shaq's shortcomings. But the fact is that he is older, heavier and slower than he's ever been and his decline has been glaringly apparent since he arrived in Phoenix last season; he simply can't keep up with the competition on a nightly basis anymore (he can still get up for the odd "big game" here and there).
In fact, Shaq himself said that his goal was to play in 60 games this season. What? A full regular season is 82 games, and to win the championship requires a team to win an additional 16 throughout the playoffs... I'd think his goal would be to play in 98 games! Instead, Shaq seems to play only when Shaq wants to play, and even then his physical decline has caused him to become a different player, and not in a good way. In just the past 8 days he has been fined $35k for getting involved in an on-court altercation against the Rockets where he two-hand shoved opposing players not just once but twice, and he committed a flagrant 2 foul and was ejected from a game against the Pistons 4 days later and subsequently fined $25k for verbally abusing the officials and not leaving the court in a timely fashion.
Shaq's response to these incidents and fines? And I quote: "Doesn't matter to me," O'Neal said. "I'm not one that can be controlled with fines, so that doesn't matter to me." That sure sounds to me like someone who intends to try and physically bully his way through another season while his skills and dignity continue to deteriorate. And that's just sad.
Atlanta Hawks: Contenders or Pretenders?
After charging out to an impressive 6-0 start, the Hawks promptly went on a 4 game losing streak. Their first loss of the season was by a single point to the defending NBA Champion Boston Celtics, which is forgivable. Not forgivable, however, was the Hawks dropping both games of a home-and-home against the putrid NJ Nets, a team that was 2-5 coming into their series with the Hawks. The Hawks set an early tone this season winning with tough defense (3rd overall in the league) and hustle rebounding (4th overall), but if they want to prove their great early start was no fluke they can't be losing "give me" games against teams like the Nets.
Unquestionably the loss of Josh Smith to a sprained ankle has hampered them, but teams that want to be great find a way to win during those inevitable stretches in an 82 game season when they are without one of their key players.
NBA Tip-Off: Welcome To The NBA Rookie
Last Edited on: 11/21/08 12:29 PM ET - Total times edited: 1