Shaquille O’Neal made his first points memorable on Wednesday night.
But don’t take my word for it.
Here’s Steve Nash’s take after the game: “You really hate to lose an important game, but once you take a step back you have to believe the possibilities for us are very exciting.”
And here’s Shaq going even further along the same general lines: “When we really get to know each other we’re going to be the most dangerous team ever created.”
I’m not ready to go quite that far, but I will say that Shaq’s performance in his first game as a Sun exceeded all reasonable expectations. Not only were his numbers (15 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks and one highlight-worthy assist) outstanding for a guy who’s been on the shelf for several weeks and only been with his new team five days, but the shape he was in was so good it surprised even himself.
In fact, The Big Cactus (aka Aristotle, aka Diesel), made some key plays at both ends of the court in the fourth period to help keep the Suns in the game.
A pessimist could note gloomily that even though Shaq did everything he was brought here to do – numbers-wise at least – the Suns STILL lost. But the other side of that coin is that if Shaq could do this much serious damage while he and his new team are still trying to get used to each other and he is still getting his game legs under him the possibilities are indeed “very exciting.”
And talk about buzz!
This was late-round playoff buzz. In fact, the excitement almost approached World Series buzz. The press room was sold out, photographers were out en masse, and the word on the street was that choice tickets to see Shaq’ debut were retailing for $500 to $1,000.00.
When he came out to midcourt during pregame drills to lean down and plant a kiss on former teammate Derek Fisher’s head a flock of fotogs surrounded them. And when he and Kobe hugged at along the sideline, a phalanx of photos converged on the embrace (a phalanx is two flocks).
And Shaq got an ovation almost every time he even inhaled or exhaled, drawing especially loud cheers for a couple of blocks. He even delighted fans when he accidentally ran over one of the officials.
As far as the rest of the night is concerned what we had here was two very good basketball teams that are going to be even better down the road a piece— the Lakers because they figure to have a healthy Andrew Bynum and the Suns because they figure to fully incorporate Shaq into their game plan.
In fact, by the time the playoffs roll around I wouldn’t be surprised if these were the two best teams in the league. And should they meet in any round it would be a series for the ages.
The bottom line: Has to be reserved for Kobe’s 16-25 field goals, 8-10 free throws, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 41 points, and at least 5 highlight reel moves.