Since the second season of the Steve Nash Era, I have told anyone who would listen that you need to give the team nine games to get into a groove.

It's taken a few games but Nash and O'Neal are starting to learn how to play together now.  (NBAE Photos)
It’s taken a few games but Nash and O’Neal are starting to learn how to play together now. (NBAE Photos)

For some reason, it takes Steve that many games to figure out where his fellow teammates like to catch passes and his teammates the same number of games to remember they need to have their hands always ready when they are running into the lane.

In the four years since Nash has been back, the team has gone 21-15 if you add up the first nine games of each of those seasons. That’s not too bad of a record. It’s a 58% winning percentage. But in the 9 games after (games 10 through 18 of each season), the team is cumulatively 33-3.

When the Suns pulled the trigger on the Shaquille O’Neal trade, I tried to tell everyone I could not to judge the success or failure of the trade based on the first nine games. Based on previous seasons, the team would be getting to know each other all over again. It would be like starting a new season with new players. Except that most of the rest of the teams the Suns were playing were in mid-season shape.

Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that the Suns went 3-6 in the first nine games with Shaq. Nor was I surprised that they won their next two games. But I still see the pitfalls the team faces. Unlike starting a normal season, the teams the Suns are playing now aren’t on a level playing field. Most of them didn’t just replace a major spoke in a wheel that likes to travel 90 mph. The Suns schedule for the rest of the month is: Golden State, Sacramento, Portland, Houston, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Denver. But if any team can pick up the pace in mid-season and go on a winning streak despite the challenges, it’s this team.

Here are some other numbers you might find interesting about the past 10 games with Shaq:

  • In wins, opponents’ field goal percentage has gone from 43.5% to 40.4%.
  • Opponent 3-point field goal percentage has decreased from 31.4% to 29.2% when the Suns win.
  • In losses, total Suns rebounds haven’t changed much but in wins total rebounds have increased by nearly 6 rebounds per game.
  • Percentage of total rebounds increased in both wins and losses; from 48% to 56% in wins and from 45% to 49% in losses.
  • Turnovers have increased in both wins and losses.
  • In Suns wins, O’Neal averages 8 points per game. In losses, he averages 13 points per game.

Have you noticed any other O’Neal Effect in the past 10 games? Are there any other numbers you’re curious about but just don’t want to look up yourself? E-mail me at


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