He’s still the same dominant player on the both defense and offense, tipping the ball in his team’s favor with every tick of the game clock. But after watching four quarters, it became clear that Shawn is unequipped for victory without his Band of Brothers in Phoenix. Until Miami can find more talent, it’s Marion and Wade against the world.

On the other side of the country, Shaq inherits Marion’s old reality: sellout games, all-star teammates, and a city of Suns fanatics. I know this because everywhere I go, people are talking at the big trade. When my plane first touched down at Sky Harbor shortly after the trade news broke, I overheard 3 cell phone conversations about the Suns before I even got to the baggage claim.

You expect sports fans to run their mouths at the bars and at the water cooler, but a move this big invites everyone into the conversation. The baristas at my favorite coffee shop are excited to have something new to talk about with the espresso sippers. The UPS people have something in common with the FedEx people. And the Realtors are speculating where the big man will buy a house. (For the record, most Realtors agree he’ll buy a house on my street. I broke the news to my neighbor Bill, and we agreed to campaign for Shaq to be HOA president.)

I knew that Shaq Fever had taken over the city yesterday when I was at the library reading the New York Times. The trademark tranquility of the reading room was disrupted by a rowdy discussion about what Shaq will bring to the Suns. Listen, I like the Suns as much as anyone else, but you don’t yell about it in the library. I lowered the paper to see who was disturbing the peace. Who was it? Two librarians.

In the Arizona Republic this morning, Bob Young wrote that the Suns going into the All-Star break are “like kids on Christmas who have a present under the Christmas tree that they can’t open…a 7-foot-1, 321 present.” This is a loaded analogy because we all know what it’s like to get a Christmas present that’s not as cool as we thought it would be. Only time will tell. This was a trade to make help the Suns bring home an NBA Championship. I just hope I can be patient through February, March, and April.

It’s just good to have a shot of energy on the team and around town. Now, the real question is this: What are we going to call Shaq? Marion was the Matrix. Diaw is 3D. Barbosa is the Brazilian Blur. Stoudamire is STAT (or Hellboy if you ask Barkley.) And Steve Nash is, um, Steve Nash.

What will be the nickname for the new-and-improved Shaquille O’Neal? Someone mentioned Shaqtus (like cactus) but I thought that was too Sun City West. A friend of min came up with Bio-Diesel, which is slightly clever, but says nothing about the epic story of Shaq in Phoenix. I prefer Shaq2.0 but I don’t know if it will stick. Any ideas?

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