<br><strong>Shaq may look serene here, but Lou is in trouble. (Josh Greene/Suns.com)</strong>

Shaq may look serene here, but Lou is in trouble. (Josh Greene/Suns.com)

I never saw the resemblance between Suns forward Louis Amundson and famous prankster Ashton Kutcher until Tuesday, when the ponytailed reserve decided to punk the “Master of Mischief” himself, Shaquille O’Neal.

In a move that most would consider suicidal, Amundson took it upon himself to retaliate against the “Big Cactus” after Shaq repeatedly “punk’d” Lou all season. Lou, who is a lover of exercise as well as the environment, rides his bicycle to the arena every day for practice. Unfortunately for Amundson, Shaq felt compelled to steal Lou’s bike and hide it in tiny nooks around the arena. Lou could be seen searching for his bike for as much as an hour after practice.

After a season of being the butt of the Diesel’s jokes, he decided “enough was enough.”

Lou was going to adhere to the famous Chinese proverb (perhaps Texan) that advised against “poking the bear.” It appears that Shaq’s year-long razzing had awakened the hibernating cub inside of Lou.

What that proverb forgot to include was the end part. “Don’t poke the bear… unless you’re actually a much larger bear,” which was an addendum to that age-old aphorism that the “Big Aristotle” knew quite well. It was the part that Lou might regret not having learned earlier.

Now don’t get me wrong. Shaq and Lou have a very amicable relationship. Shaq makes good-natured quips towards Lou at practice, which is a sign in his “Shaq-i-verse” that he likes you. Shaq praises Lou’s effort and energy to the press, appointed him to his “LPC” (the reserves that help him with his player-introduction antics) and even served as his back-up dancer when Lou performed “Ice, Ice, Baby” at the annual Suns & Stars Gala.

The former MVP even gave Lou the nickname “Lightning Lou.” When one Suns.com staffer (not it) suggested that Lou’s nickname search (ok, maybe it) open up to include such gems as “2 Live Lou” and “Lou Skywalker,” Shaq stringently rebuffed the idea.

You see when Shaq gives you a nickname, you have to adopt it. It’s a rule.

So maybe it was the comfort level that Lou felt towards Shaq, the increased confidence he’s developed with more playing time or maybe just repressed antipathy towards O’Neal’s pranks that caused Lou to strategize his plot for revenge. Well, whatever it was, it worked.

After the Suns defeated the Grizzlies on Monday in their second-to-last game of the season, I was performing my customary postgame duties of interviewing players in the locker room when I saw Lou making a bee-line towards the exit.

Usually Lou, who likes to snarf down postgame food at his locker, was making a not-so-customary move to scamper out, so I stopped him to see what was up. After chatting for a few minutes, Lou revealed to me his master plan to exact revenge on Shaq.

He said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to get Shaq back after practice tomorrow. I’m calling it ‘Operation Condor.’”

I said, “Oh, no. So the dolphins are in the Jacuzzi?”

He nodded with a glimmer of mania in eye.

With my curiosity and desire to see Shaq get “punk’d” outweighing my impartial journalistic instincts, I pressed further.

“Do you need me to help you get videotape surveillance of it?” I inquired.

“Nah, I got it covered,” he said with a wry smile. “I’m going to have it videotaped.”

Again, with my morality folding like a lawn chair, I proposed, “Hey, we could video it, send it to TMZ and split the profits 50/50.” (of course splitting the profits with the team and Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver… did I mention I love my job?)

Lou agreed and we decided to resume our strategy of the media coverage in the morning. So let’s fast forward to after practice today.

With the full Suns.com entourage alerted to Lou’s shenanigans, our forces staked out Shaq’s “police van” in anticipation of what was about to go down. I stayed by the locker room to remain as a look-out for the Shaqtus.

The beauty of the whole prank lied in the A&E camera crew that was following him. A&E, which is shooting a reality show pilot about Shaq, was following him to his van and keeping him distracted. As he walked by me, he stared at me bewilderingly, and I smiled and pretended that I was working on my Blackberry (really, I alerted the others that he was on his way).

As Shaq sashayed over to his van, everyone remained hidden and calm. Suns teammates Jared Dudley and Alando Tucker looked unsuspicious as they lingered in their cars as they waited for Shaq’s reaction.

So as Shaq walked to his car door like he did every day all season, he had no idea what was in store for him. As he opened up his ride, loads and loads of pink packing peanuts began flooding out of his car. Shaq stood there speechless as he opened the other door which led to the same effect.

At that moment, everyone came out of the woodwork snapping pictures and shooting video of Shaq as the reality of him being the victim of a practical joke began to soak in.

I asked him, “Who do you think is the chief suspect?”

He said smiling, “Lou.”

“Was it Lou?” he asked.

“I really can’t say,” not folding under questioning.

Shaq then opened the doors on the opposite side and witnessed a sea of peanuts spill onto his feet. That is where he started interrogating rookie point guard Goran Dragic, who he summoned to help clean up the mess.

After remaining relatively quiet for Shaq’s standards (presumably formulating his plot) and just making threats to the video cameras for about five minutes, he gathered Dudley and Tucker into a secret huddle.

The details of the plan could not be fully revealed or heard, but the words “shears” and “ponytail” were quite audible. With arena workers gleefully shoveling packing peanuts into a mobile plastic dumpster, Shaq playfully hopped into the dumpster before frolicking about like a little kid.

Knowing that it could be quite the hassle removing him from there, I helped brace the dumpster as he climbed out. Showing that “no good deed goes unpunished,” Shaq came from behind me, picked me up, and gave me a face-first piledriver right into the dumpster.

After helping me out, fellow Suns.com staff member and Publishing Manager Josh Greene became the next victim of Shaq’s wild exuberance. Although lightly, Greene was body-slammed into the bed of peanuts before Shaq helped him back out.

It was an unbelievable prank by Lou, who even received praise from Shaq.

“This is better than “Punk’d,” O’Neal said. “But you don’t mess with the ‘police van’ Lou.”

The whole ordeal lasted about a half an hour and it definitely has Shaq motivated for retribution. But after everything thinned out and Shaq drove away, it left with with the question… so who were the winners?

Suns.com fans who get to see exclusive video of the prank; Tucker and Dudley, who will get to partake in not one, but two pranks; Shaq’s van, which needed a cleaning anyway (I think I saw two Kazaam DVDs in there); the A&E crew that just started shooting its pilot today (yeah, I think that’s going to be greenlit now); and Lou, who finally received his vengeance.

<br><strong>It's safe to say that I got hosed in this whole ordeal. (Josh Greene/Suns.com)</strong>

It's safe to say that I got hosed in this whole ordeal. (Josh Greene/Suns.com)

How about the losers?

Definitely Shaq. He was legitimately “punk’d”; me (I still have packing peanuts in my boxers); Lou (he’s dead); Leandro Barbosa (after Shaq reads this blog he’ll know that LB helped shovel the peanuts into the van); and all of the media that didn’t cover the team today. I hope the news services got great video of the firemen getting that cat out of the tree!

So what’s going to be the blowback?

Well, seeing Shaq’s knack for the dramatic and his ability to take anything small and turn it into a hilarious circus, I would be worried if I was Lou.

Why couldn’t have Lou waited until after the game tomorrow? It’s the last game of the season. The offseason was just a day away, but now he left the door open for the “Big Prankster” to take his shot.

If he had me on the strategy committee, I would have packed the peanuts and been on the first flight out of Dodge. Also, with Lou as one of the leading contenders for the Dan Majerle Hustle Award, what if he wins it tomorrow night? And what if Shaq really does something ridiculous to his hair?

He could carve a large “S” into Lou’s cranium before Lou accepts the award. Lou could have his hair dyed like a rainbow. Or, what if the “shears” comment was just used for misdirection and Lou is in for way worse?

Shaq is 325 pounds of pure muscle. He makes his own rules.

When I texted Lou updates of the prank, he told me we was nervous. In fact, he didn’t stay to watch it all unfold because he feared (correctly) for his life. My advice was for him to call in sick tomorrow. Maybe they’ll be a rain-out.

Shaq promised everyone that Lou’s moment of reckoning will come before shootaround Wednesday morning. What will he do? Stay tuned for more…

But in the meantime, check out video of Lou’s prank by clicking here!

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