There were so many things wrong with Steve Kerr moving to bring Shaquille O’Neal to the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns a few years ago that it’s hard to remember them all.
But fans and management in Cleveland should remember this one as the Cavs close in on a deal with the Suns: Amar’e Stoudemire was not the same player when Shaq was on the floor.
In theory they should be able to play together — Stoudemire in the high post, Shaq in the low post. But it didn’t work that way. Stoudemire likes to work on the low block and use his quickness, but that space was filled up. The Suns slowed down and Stoudemire found it harder to slash to the rim because Shaq’s defender was right there to help.
What’s worse, Steve Nash’s dribble penetration became difficult because the lane was clogged with big defenders, as opposed to being spread out. LeBron James, may want to ask Nash about this when he runs into him in Dallas this weekend. LeBron can already be a little eager to settle for the jumper, this could exacerbate that habit.
To be fair, that Shaq/Stoudemire Suns team started to figure it out and was hot going into the playoffs — this was a franchise that had been a Western Conference title contender three straight years, and maybe they had figured it out. Then they got routed in the first round by the Spurs. The next year they didn’t even make the playoffs (although injuries played a large role in that).
Stoudemire in some ways is a perfect running mate for LeBron on offense, and maybe this move and a contract extension with Stoudemire is about the future as much as the present. But Stoudemire can be a disinterested defender and certainly will struggle to stop the likes of Dwight Howard on the low block. The trade as proposed would send Zydrunas Ilgauskas west, so Shaq would be the lone guy who can defend true centers on the roster this season, and if he left after this season the Cavs would have another hole to fill.
When the Suns traded for Shaq, they had the best record in the Western Conference, were title contenders but thought they had a weakness that needed to be fixed. Right now Cleveland has the best record in the East, has beaten the Lakers twice and looks like a title contender.
Do they need to take the risk?
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.
Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.
Apparently, Gay found it.
Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:
Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.
“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”
Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.
“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”
Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.
But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.
In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.