The buzzword around the Suns these days is “Patience.” It will be a process and a journey with a brand new system implemented by Terry Porter. There are times when the team struggles with the new half-court sets and the “push your man baseline” defensive concepts. But through repetition and commitment to The Porter Principles, you can see progress every day. And the model student at class is one of the oldest: Shaquille O’Neal.
The Big Pupil has been so impressive with his dedication and demeanor in practice. Sure, the average fan will say: “Hey, he’s being paid $20 million a year, he should be the leader of the class.” But remember what The Big Sheriff has accomplished in his career. The titles, the MVP Trophies, the endorsements, the glory. He is now 36 and could easily be set in his ways. His body has taken years of punishment. Shaq could easily take a few drills or sprints off. But there he was with the defensive slides at training camp, running the full-court sprints, and competing in every station. Then today at practice, The Big Entertainer not only put on some dazzling offensive moves(a little hocus pocus, now you see it, now you don’t ball-fakes on rookie Robin Lopez along with some Nash-like between the legs dribbles)but he constantly put forth total effort in the breakdown drills. He closed out on the perimeter, performed textbook box-outs on rebounds, and generally practiced like he was 26 not 36.
The Big Sensai is also expediting the growth and improvement of his newest ninja, Lopez, who goes head to head with O’Neal each day and the results were evident under the stars in Indian Wells. Robin’s perseverance and tenacity are a direct byproduct of his battles with The Master in practice. Terry Porter needs the team to buy into his system, and right now his biggest and best salesman is Shaq.