Alando Tucker travels to play for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds again this week to continue progressing in his game. (NBAE Photos)
I’m going to start by discussing the topic everybody has obviously been asking about – the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal. I was driving in my car listening to the radio when I first found out about the trade. Fans were discussing their opinions on what it would be like to have O’Neal in Phoenix, and I thought they were just responding to a rumor. A couple of teammates ended up telling me that it was actually the real deal. To be honest, my emotions were kind of mixed. Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks were both good teammates and good guys, but at the same time I was really looking forward to playing with a teammate I grew up watching in O’Neal. I also thought about how excited the city was going to be and that really helped in me getting excited also. While my emotions were mixed, everybody told me I had the right attitude as it was going to be important for us to look forward as we continue to work towards our ultimate goal of winning a championship.
I have been watching Shaq and have been a big fan since his days in Orlando – back when he was what I call “Thin Shaq.” He was agile, breaking rims and has really showed a lot of the same here. You obviously saw that if you watched the San Antonio game on Sunday.
Being a communications major also played a big part in why O’Neal was one of my favorite players growing up. He always seemed so prepared for his interviews, which is something a lot of people take for granted. He’s always ready, he’s always got a joke and I’ve learned that he really prepares for interviews. And I think that’s big.
He’s a character and definitely a hard worker. He’s also a great listener. He takes advice from players – including me – which is shocking, but that’s the sign of a great athlete and a great leader. He has a willingness to listen, and he’s shown that so far. He’s been another great guy to watch along with Steve Nash and Grant Hill, in terms of the way he conducts himself and gets himself ready for games.
On the court, the team didn’t get off to the best of starts once he joined, but we never panicked and understood we were going to be changing a lot. For the past three years, this team has been playing full speed while Shaq has been used to everything running through him. Both of those were about to change as this offense goes through the point guards. We knew it was going to take some adjusting but are really happy with a lot of the things we’ve been able to do. We haven’t had a lot of breaks and have seen opponents hit some tough shots, but we’ve never dropped our heads.
The Spurs game on Sunday was big as we definitely didn’t want to drop three games in a row. There’s a lot going on right now not only with playoff positioning, but also getting momentum back on our side. We know the importance in building off that win for the rest of this homestand but no matter what happens, this team is not going to hang its head.
Now I’m getting ready to get back with the Thunderbirds where the focus is again on keeping in shape. I need to stay ready both mentally and physically, and Albuquerque helps with that. We’ve got a lot of veteran guys here, and because of that we don’t run practices as long as some other NBA teams. That’s why it’s important I take advantage of these trips and stay on top of my game. I’ve been working a lot lately with our strength-and-conditioning coach Erik Phillips and see that as a way of taking the next step.
Again, I definitely want to thank everybody for the comments and all the great things I’ve read. People have really been encouraging and I really pay attention to all the things fans have said. Keep reading and I’ll check back in soon.